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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.

Cal drops Texas in a wild game to put Big 12 playoff hopes in peril

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Just three weeks into the season and the Big 12’s chances of putting a team into the College Football Playoff are suddenly in peril. After Saturday night, one probably wouldn’t be all that wrong in saying they’re hanging on by a thread.

That’s the case after the conference’s top-ranked team Texas fell to California 50-43 in just about the wildest way possible.

After a back-and-forth shootout of a first half gave way to a scoreless third quarter, the two teams traded scores once again in the final 15 minutes before Cal quarterback (and Texas Tech transfer) Davis Webb marched the Bears down the field on a seven play, 65 yard touchdown drive. That gave the Bears the lead for what turned out to be for good with 3:41 left in the game but it wasn’t quite that easy for either squad.

Texas ended up getting the ball back needing a score to tie but promptly went three and out. Head coach Charlie Strong bizarrely punted the ball away with the Longhorns on their own 21 yard line and just under two minutes left on the clock. That was the only opening the Bears needed to salt away the game but not before some strange Pac-12 after dark magic popped up in Berkeley.

Needing just a yard to ice the game away for good on third down, Cal tailback Vic Enwere busted through the UT defense for what appeared to be a 55 yard touchdown run. But in a move that was appropriate for the alma mater of DeSean Jackson, Enwere actually dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.

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Despite a Texas player picking up the ball as it rolled on the ground in the end zone, officials ruled that there was “no immediate recovery” and Cal was allowed to keep the ball. Two kneel-downs later and the Bears had bizarrely concluded a two-year sweep of the Lone Star State school.

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele played solidly in his first road start (196 yards, one TD, one INT) for the Longhorns but missed time early after suffering an injury. The night was his counterpart’s in blue and gold though, with Webb throwing for 396 yards and four scores. Receiver Chad Hansen went off against a shaky Texas secondary to the tune of 196 yards and two touchdowns as the primary target in the passing game.

As big of a win as it was for Sonny Dykes’ Golden Bears though, it was a crusher for Strong’s young Longhorns and in particular the Big 12. The loss gives the league just two undefeated teams after three weeks and likely none in the top 15 of the polls after Oklahoma was crushed by Ohio State on Saturday night.

The Big 12 isn’t completely out of the running to place a team in the final four but the result in Berkeley coupled with the one in Norman certainly makes it an uphill battle in 2016 for a conference that has already been left out of the playoff once before.

Bonkers in Berkeley: Cal leads Texas 35-33 in wild first half shootout

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You just knew that a late night college football game involving two schools from Berkeley and Austin was bound to get weird. California and Texas certainly delivered on that front in the first half on Saturday.

The Bears took a narrow 35-33 lead into the locker room thanks to a simply bonkers sequence to end the half that pretty much summed the night up for both teams.

Texas freshman Brandon Jones had just blocked a punt that rolled through the back of the end zone for a safety and a 33-28 lead with 1:38 left before halftime. Freshman phenom Shane Buechele, who suffered a hard hit to the chest and temporarily left the game, returned at quarterback the following series and promptly threw an interception that Cal safety Luke Rubenzer returned to the Texas 24 yard line.

Two plays later, Bears quarterback Davis Webb dropped an absolute perfect pass into the arms of Chad Hansen to improbably give Cal the lead after the offense spent most of the game playing catch up. It was the third touchdown throw of the night for Webb, a former Texas Tech signal-caller who has seen his fair share of the Longhorns.

Aside from the interception, his counterpart Buechele was impressive in his first road start in college, finding the end zone in impressive fashion when he a fired a 41-yard strike to a waiting Jacorey Warrick in the end zone. The UT offense didn’t seem to miss much of a beat with Buechele out and backup Tyrone Swoopes in, with the latter leading the team on two touchdown drives to help keep pace with the Bears.

Still, neither head coach can be all that happy with their defense after seeing plenty of big plays, missed tackles and numerous mental mistakes. Of course for those of us at home, it makes for must-see late night college football action that is bound to have a crazy second half encore.