42 players named to initial Lott Trophy watch list

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You know what this means, right?  Yep, we’re slowly inching closer to the start of a new season.

While that remains a little under four months away, one major postseason award has released its first watch list of the offseason, with the Lott IMPACT Trophy releasing its group of 42 players on the defensive side of the ball.  No finalists or semifinalists for last year’s award, won by Notre Dame Manti Te’o, are represented on this year’s watch list.

A total of seven conferences — the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt Conference being the lone exceptions — and three independents — Army, BYU and Notre Dame — are represented this year, including a total of 37 different football programs.

Of the seven schools with two players on the list, three come from the Pac-12: Stanford (DL Henry Anderson, S Ed Reynolds), UCLA (LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks) and Washington (DT Danny Shelton, LB John Timu).  Baylor (S Ahmad Dixon, LB Bryce Hager), Northwestern (DB Ibraheim Campbell, LB Damien Proby), Ohio State (CB Bradley Roby, LB Ryan Shazier) and Virginia Tech (CB Antone Exum, LB Jack Tyler).

The Pac-12 led all conferences with 11 players on the list, followed by the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 with seven apiece.  Players from the SEC and Mountain West (two) were also part of the initial grouping.

The Lott Trophy is named in honor of former USC and San Francisco 49ers great Ronnie Lott, and is given out to the player who has the biggest IMPACT — Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community and Tenacity — on their teams both on and off the field.

For the complete Lott Trophy watch list, see below:

Henry Anderson, DL, Stanford
Geoffrey Bacon, LB, Army
Calvin Barnett, DL, Oklahoma State
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Nat Behre, DB, San Diego State
Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
Ibraheim Campbell, DB, Northwestern
Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Scott Crichton, DL, Oregon State
Alden Darby, DB, Arizona State
Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt
Steele DiVitto, LB, Boston College
Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Jake Fischer, LB, Arizona
Chase Garnham, LB, Vanderbilt
Bryce Hager, LB, Baylor
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Lamarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State
Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
Devon Kennard, DL, USC
James Morris, LB, Iowa
C.J. Moseley, LB, Alabama
Damien Proby, LB, Northwestern
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
D.T. Shackleford, LB, Ole Miss
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Spencer Shuey, LB, Clemson
Derron Smith, DB, Fresno State
John Timu, LB, Washington
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky
Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State

Florida taking advantage of Tennessee mistakes

Associated Press
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Tennessee isn’t going to be good in Jeremy Pruitt‘s first year of his effort to excavate the program from the rubble of all of Butch Jones‘s bricks, but one has to wonder how good the Vols might be if they could just get out of their own way.

A chorus of miscues have staked Florida to a 26-3 halftime lead in Knoxville.

The mistakes started immediately for Tennessee. On the Vols’ first drive of the game, Jarrett Guarantano was sacked and fumbled, which Florida’s David Reese II recovered and returned to the UT 21. Felepie Franks put the Gators up 7-0 four plays later when he hit R.J. Raymond for a 1-yard toss.

On Tennessee’s next possession, Guarantano was intercepted by Luke Ancrum at his own 12, which he returned to the 7. Franks rushed in from one yard out two plays later, handing Florida a 14-0 lead.

Dear reader, this was just the beginning.

A safety handed Florida a 16-3 and, after the free kick, Franks found Freddie Swan for a 65-yard score, effectively ending the game at 23-3 with 10:42 to play in the second quarter.

Tennessee appeared to be in position to pull back within two scores when, on a 4th-and-1 from their own 45, Guarantano found a wide open tight end Austin Pope for a 51-yard connection. But as Pope leaped to avoid a tackle near the goal line, he lost control of the ball, which then rolled out of the end zone, turning a 1st-and-goal into a touchback.

Florida punted on the ensuing possession and Tennessee again moved into scoring territory, facing a 3rd-and-11 at the Florida 23, but a botched shotgun snap ended a second straight promising drive in a fumble.

Florida drove 66 yards at the close of the half to add a 25-yard Evan McPherson field goal to close the first half with a 26-3 lead.

Are they back now? Texas snaps four-game losing streak to TCU

Associated Press
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Before the 2018 season began, many were pondering what’s been an annual question of late: “Is Texas back?” A road loss to an embattled Maryland in the opener suggested no.  The last two weeks, however, might say otherwise.

Trailing 13-10 at the half, and then 16-10 in the middle of the third, Texas ripped off 21 straight points to secure a huge 31-16 win over No. 17 TCU in the Big 12 opener for both schools.  The win snapped the Longhorns’ four-game losing streak to the Horned Frogs.

Sam Ehlinger passed for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns while rushing for another score in a winning effort.  Tre Watson led all rushers with a game-high 58 yards.

Defensively, the Longhorns forced four turnovers — three interceptions, one fumble recovery.  Texas was able to turn those turnovers into 14 points.

Combine this impressive win with a 23-point win over then-No. 22 USC the week before, and we’re right back to…

Of course, the answer to the question won’t be definitively answered for another two weeks as, after a road trip to Kansas State, Texas will play host to No. 5 Oklahoma.  And, even then, we may not get answer.

Old Dominion stuns No. 13 Virginia Tech for first-ever Power Five win

Associated Press
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Since returning to the FBS level, Old Dominion had been 0-9 against Power Five teams, with eight of those losses coming to schools from the ACC.  And then Saturday afternoon/evening happened.

Coming in as a 27.5-point underdog, Old Dominion left Foreman Stadium with a stunning 49-35 upset over No. 13 Virginia Tech.  The Monarchs had been 0-3 entering the game — losses to Liberty, FIU and Charlotte — while the Hokies were a perfect 2-0.

Tech had allowed just two touchdowns in two games; ODU had four in the fourth quarter alone and seven total in the game.

The two teams traded the lead six times, while it was tied on another six occasions.  The Monarchs took its first lead of the game with just under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, only to see the Hokies tied it up nearly three minutes later.

With 5:11 left in the contest, ODU took the lead for good on a tremendous one-handed catch by Jonathan Duhart on the back-end of a 29-yard touchdown pass from Blake LaRussa.

Both teams ended the game with their backups quarterbacks on the field.  LaRussa passed for 495 yards and four touchdowns after he replaced the starter before the second offensive series, while Ryan Willis went eight-of-15 for 115 yards and a touchdown in place of the injured Josh Jackson (8-16, two touchdowns, one interception).

 

Tech was the second ranked ACC team to go down in defeat at the hands of a previously-winless squad.  Earlier in the day, No. 23 Boston College was railroaded 30-13 by a Purdue team came in 0-3.

Tua remains flawless as No. 1 Alabama slays No. 22 Texas A&M

Associated Press
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No. 1 Alabama and its Heisman candidate quarterback Tua Tagovailoa cruised through their first three games, but Saturday was supposed to be different. No. 22 Texas A&M was coming to Tuscaloosa, and for the first time this season, the defending national champions would face a team that would match them athlete for athlete, coach for coach, and dollar for dollar.

Or so we thought.

Texas A&M threw its best bunch at college football’s crimson bully, but in the end Alabama accepted that blow and landed a torrent of haymakers back, cruising to a 45-23 win that wasn’t as close as the final score.

The game opened with a quick interception by Alabama’s Mack Wilson and an even quicker touchdown pass, as Devonta Smith hauled in a 30-yard score one play later to give the Tide a lead just 50 seconds into the game.

The next sequence was the best for Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC): after Alabama downed a punt at the Texas A&M 1, the Aggies marched the length of the field to tie the game. The key play on a 54-yard quarterback draw by Kellen Mond, then a 15-yard strike to tight end Jace Sternberger. It was the first 99-yard drive surrendered by Alabama since Houston did it in 1997.

But, in typical Alabama (4-0, 2-0 SEC) fashion, the euphoria of legitimately challenging the Tide was short lived. Tagovailoa moved the Tide 75 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 1-yard keeper, to give Alabama a lead it would not relinquish.

Seth Small put the Aggies within 14-10 at the 8:50 mark of the second quarter, but Alabama put the game away with 17 points over the final half of the second frame: a 23-yard strike to Hale Henteges, a 6-yard toss to Henteges and a 47-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal to stake Alabama to a 31-13 lead.

Josh Jacobs scored on a 3-yard rush to push the lead to 38-13, and Henry Ruggs III took a ball 57 yards to the house to add the capper at the 2:01 mark of the third quarter.

Trayveon Williams added the final score of the day, a 1-yard rush, with 12:55 to play in the game.

Tagovailoa added to his Heisman resume with perhaps his best game yet: 22-of-30 for 387 yards and four touchdowns while adding another on the ground. Damien Harris and Najee Harris combined to run 15 times for 95 yards.

On the other end, Mond endured a number of sacks to still rush for a game-high 98 yards while throwing for 196 more, but the bulk of those were in garbage time, and two interceptions were backbreakers for the Aggies.

The win moved Nick Saban to 13-0 against his former assistants, though Jimbo Fisher‘s 22-point loss was ahead of Saban’s average margin of victory of 27 points.