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No. 5 USC opens flat against Cal and it’s all tied up in Berkeley at halftime

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Imagine telling somebody before the season that No. 5 USC would dominate Stanford in the trenches during a blowout, but struggle against the other Bay Area team in a nail-bitter. Up is down, down is up in the Pac-12 apparently.

The Trojans came out flat to start their annual weekend trip to the Bay Area and needed a few defensive stands to keep the score locked at 13-all on a warm California day between the two in-state rivals.

Quarterback Sam Darnold (157 yards, one touchdown) did his Heisman campaign no favors, tossing his seventh interception of the season (after just nine in all of 2016). Things could have been worse for the signal-caller and his inexperienced receiving corps too as the Golden Bears nearly grabbed two others. Part of the issue could be that his terrific tailback Ronald Jones II failed to make the trip up for the game with an injury and true freshman Stephen Carr (36 yards) was forced to carry much of the load.

Cal’s offense had its own moments but was just 2-of-8 on third down conversions to help stall some early momentum. QB Ross Bowers threw for 124 yards but it was big running back Vic Enwere who was the star of the show with 42 yards on the ground and a touchdown he punched in on 4th and goal. The real story for the home team was the continued play of their defense however, pressuring Darnold on a number of snaps, forcing two turnovers and covering exceptionally well downfield to limit big plays.

The performance through two quarters will lead many to question whether USC really should be ranked in the top five and considered the Pac-12 favorite but the cardinal and gold could turn things around with a trip to the locker room and some adjustments. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed with Justin Wilcox’s squad giving everything they can to another big name opponent in Berkeley this month.

Doak Walker Award watch list highlighted by 2016 semifinalists Barkley and Pettway

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A watch list of the top running backs in the nation has been released by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum on Thursday. The Doak Walker Award watch list is full of great players, including 2016 Doak Walker Award semifinalists Saquon Barkley (Penn State) and Kamryn Pettway (Auburn).

Among those included on this year’s initial Doak Walker Award watch list (more players can be added at any time) are LSU’s Derrius Guice, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, LJ Scott of Michigan State, Mike Weber of Ohio State, and Bo Scarbrough of Alabama, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin.

D’Onta Foreman of Texas beat out both Barkley and Pettway last season for the award. The Doak Walker Award has been presented to the nation’s top running back annually since 1990. Among the winners over the years have included Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, and Montee Ball.

To be included on this watch list, the university athletic department must submit a nomination.

2017 Doak Walker Award Watch List

Josh Adams, Notre Dame
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Alex Barnes, Kansas State
Jamauri Bogan, Western Michigan
D’Angelo Brewer, Tulsa
Nick Chubb, Georgia
Jordan Chunn, Troy
Justin Crawford, West Virginia
Damarea Crockett, Missouri
Rico Dowdle, South Carolina
D’Andre Ferby, WKU
Kendrick Foster, Illinois
Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
Myles Gaskin, Washington
James Gilbert, Ball State
Derrius Guice, LSU
Damien Harris, Alabama
Kyle Hicks, TCU
Justice Hill, Oklahoma State
Jon Hilliman, Boston College
Justin Jackson, Northwestern
Chris James, Wisconsin
Ty Johnson, Maryland
Ronald Jones II, USC
Ray Lawry, Old Dominion
Phillip Lindsay, Colorado
Tonny Lindsey Jr., Utah State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Sony Michel, Georgia
Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech
David Montgomery, Iowa State
Jamal Morrow, Washington State
Ryan Nall, Oregon State
Jacques Patrick, Florida State
Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
Demario Richard, Arizona State
Diocemy Saint Juste, Hawaii
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
Jordan Scarlett, Florida
LJ Scott, Michigan State
Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin
Armand Shyne, Utah
Justin Silmon, Kansas State
Ito Smith, Southern Miss
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Terry Swanson, Toledo
Shaq Vann, Eastern Michigan
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Mark Walton, Miami
Warren Wand, Arkansas State
Tre Watson, California
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Mike Weber, Ohio State
Braeden West, SMU
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas
Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Shaun Wilson, Duke
Marquis Young, Massachusetts

Butkus Award watch list led by SEC’s 11 players with Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten close behind

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Award watch season in college football continues to be in midseason form with the Butkus Award watch list being revealed on Monday. A total of 11 players from the SEC were included in the preseason watch list for the award for best linebacker.

The Pac-12 had 10 players included on the watch list, and the ACC and Big Ten each landed nine players on the list. The Big 12 managed to get just two linebackers named to the watch list, which was one fewer than the total number of FCS linebackers appearing on the list.

Alabama’s Reuben Foster was named the 2016 Butkus Award winner, making him the third Alabama linebacker to win the award since 2009 (Rolando McClain in 2009, C.J. Mosley in 2013). As it just so happens, the 2016 high school Butkus Award winner was IMG Academy’s Dylan Moses, who is now at Alabama. Alabama has two players on this year’s collegiate watch list (Rashaan Evans and Shaun Dion).

This year’s watch list includes one returning finalist from the 2016 award (Iowa’s Josey Jewell) and five additional semi-finalists (Ohio State’s Jerome Baker, Texas’ Malik Jefferson, Virginia’s Micah Kiser, Washington’s Azeem Victor, and Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy).

2017 Butkus Award Watch List

Genard Avery, Memphis
Jerome Baker, Ohio State
Davin Bellamy, Georgia
Keishawn Bierria, Washington
Eric Boggs, Appalachian State
Oren Burks, Vanderbilt
Jason Cabinda, Penn State
Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Jermaine Carterq, Maryland
Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Koron Crump, Arizona State
Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State
Devante Downs, California
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Rashaan Evans, Alabama
DeMarquis Gates, Ole Miss
Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
Shaquem Griffin, UCF
Porter Gustin, USC
Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
James Hearns, Louisville
Manase Hungalu, Oregon State
Malik Jefferson, Texas
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Jordan Jones, Kentucky
Kendall Joseph, Clemson
Junior Joseph, UConn
Peter Kalambayi, Stanford
Arden Key, LSU
Micah Kiser, Virginia
Darius Leonard, South Carolina State
Mike McCray, Michigan
Skai Moore, South Carolina
Airius Moore, N.C. State
Nyles Morgan, Notre Dame
Uchenna Nwosu, USC
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
D.J. Palmore, Navy
Jacob Pugh, Florida State
Shaquille Quarterman, Miami
Tegray Scales, Indiana
Cameron Smith, USC
Sione Teuhema, Southeastern Lousiana
Matthew Thomas, Florida State
Azeem Victor, Washington
Fred Warner, BYU
Tré Williams, Auburn
Chris Worley, Ohio State
Trevon Young, Louisville
Kenny Young, UCLA

Cal can’t contain WR John Ross as No. 5 Washington leads at halftime

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If you thought the highlight of the first half between Cal and Washington was going to be Marshawn Lynch doing his best Marshawn Lynch on Marshawn Lynch Cart Ride Bobblehead Night, well… you’d probably be right.

But that doesn’t mean there were not other highlights that went on when the No. 5 Huskies took on the Bears in some #Pac12AfterDark action from Berkeley and led 35-20 at the break.

Chief among those big plays were two huge catches from Washington speedster John Ross, each going for over 60 yards to find the end zone (he added a third score later on too). That was one reason why quarterback Jake Browning racked up 244 yards and four touchdown passes.

Dante Pettis, the hero of last week’s win over Utah with a punt return score, also threw a 39-yarder on a trick play touchdown as well.

Despite all that, the Bears snuck around thanks to the passing of Davis Webb. The signal-caller was up to 187 yards through the air and found the end zone twice (once on the ground). Receiver Chad Hansen looked healthy in his return to the lineup after an injury, hauling in four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

If Cal is going to pull of the upset however, they’ll need their defense to step up and get some stops. Sonny Dykes’ squad is certainly hanging around but will need a little extra juice if they want to knock off the team that has, so far, proven to be the class of the Pac-12.

College football players continue to drop footballs voluntarily before crossing the goal line

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There are some things in this world I have grown to accept I may never fully understand. While I may slowly be getting the hang of Snapchat, one thing I feel confident in saying I will never understand is the allure of dropping a football as close to the goal line as one possibly can, which has happened far too often in the world of football, especially college football. It happened twice last night. Fortunately for the guilty parties involved.

Last night, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon returned a kickoff against Ohio State 97 yards for a touchdown. Of course, the return should have only counted for 96 yards at the most, because video replays showed Mixon dropped the football just before crossing the goal line.

I am a strong advocate for goal-line cameras in every college football game, but you do not even need that to tell Mixon let go of the football before scoring a touchdown. Maybe the refs on the field missed it because they were too slow to keep up with the pace of the kickoff return. Maybe there should always be some sort of official on the goal line to spot these incidents as they occur on long plays. Or maybe the instant replay booth should be taking a look at this. The Big 12 admitted to messing up in the replay booth last week at Oklahoma State. The replay booth at Oklahoma messed this one up too.

But wait! There’s more. If you stayed up for the west coast action last night, you may have seen Cal running back Vic Enwere ran his way for a 54-yard touchdown right up the middle of the Texas defense, seemingly putting the nail in the coffin for the Longhorns in a wildly entertaining offensive shootout in Berkley.  Enwere also dropped the football right before crossing the goal line. This time, however, Texas was aware of the situation and Dylan Haines picked up the loose ball in the end zone, which should have resulted in a touchback for the Longhorns, thus giving Texas an opportunity to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. However, the officials determined there was no immediate recovery and the play had been ruled dead at the one-yard line. Cal was given the football at the one-yard line and the Bears took a knee to run out the clock rather than punch it in for one more score.

Just last week we had another one of these plays happen. Clemson wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud drop the football right before crossing the goal line against Troy

Somebody please explain to me why football players continue to do this. What is the reason behind it? Has anyone ever given a reason why a player wants to drop the football as soon as they can? I think these players that continue to do this should have a football duct taped to their hands for a week the next time they do it, regardless of whether it hurts their team’s chances at winning or not. Maybe then it will begin to sink in that this just isn’t cool. It could be argued the team should be penalized for a premature celebration by the officials, but no official has gone that far. Maybe they should.

Here is a brief memo to all football players. Scoring touchdowns is cool. Dropping the football before scoring a touchdown is not cool. Stop that. Now.

That said, I look forward to ripping the next college football player who chooses to drop the football before he scores a touchdown in the next week or so.