Lucky bounce gives Auburn wild finish, next up Alabama

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It was fourth an 18. Georgia had just sucked all of the momentum out of the stadium. Or so it seemed. Nick Marshall dropped back to pass and launched a deep ball out of as much desperation as he had hope. It was deflected by a Georgia defender and for a split second it looked as though Alabama would be one step closer to wrapping up the SEC West tonight. But then, as fate would have it, the ball landed in the hands of Ricardo Louis, who ran uncontested to the end zone to capture a 43-38 lead that seemed improbable just two seconds before. But this seesaw battle would not end without one last effort from Aaron Murray and Georgia, but Murray’s final pass was hopeless as he was hit as he threw. This time the ball fell to the ground instead of one lucky receiver’s hands with nothing but daylight in front of him.

Auburn 45, Georgia 38. Whew!

After holding off Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC) Saturday, Auburn (10-1, 5-1 SEC) is now in control of their SEC West fate. All that is standing in the way is the top-ranked team in the country, the two-time defending BCS champions and the biggest rival of them all for Auburn; Alabama. Oh, is that all?

The stage for a monumental Iron Bowl match-up in two weeks is now halfway set. Auburn will get a week off to rest and prepare for Alabama, who likely will come to Auburn with an undefeated record as the top-ranked team in the country (assuming the Tide win Saturday night). The way Auburn has been playing of late under head coach Gus Malzahn, the Tigers look to be the biggest threat to Alabama on their quest for a third straight BCS title. As it turns out, Auburn could still figure in to the BCS Championship equation. A win over Alabama would send Auburn in to the SEC championship game. Would a one-loss SEC champion be passed by an undefeated Ohio State or Baylor, or perhaps a one-loss Pac 12 champion (Stanford or Oregon)? The debates would be fascinating, but you could make a very strong case for Auburn given the national perception of the SEC.

But none of that will come in t play if Auburn does not beat Alabama at home for the first time since 2007.

On Saturday, Auburn looked about as worthy of a challenge to Alabama as any. The Tigers rolled up over 500 yards of offense, highlighted by a 100-yard rushing performance from Tre Mason and the dual-threat play of quarterback Marshall. Eight different players caught a pass for Auburn and the offense avoided a turnover.

Auburn also needed to dig deep and hold off a furious rally by Georgia. Trailing 37-17 in the fourth quarter, Aaron Murray threw two touchdowns to trim a 20-point deficit to a one-score game, and his controversial touchdown run gave Georgia a brief lead. Video replay showed Murray’s knee may have touched the ground before getting the ball across the goal line but there was not enough indisputable evidence to overturn the original touchdown call. It seemed as though Georgia had managed to escape with a win against all odds and set themselves up for a potential rematch with Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.

They were one bounce away from that scenario being possible.

Florida to host Florida Atlantic in 2021

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Florida will host Florida Atlantic in 2021, FAU announced Tuesday. The game will take place on Sept. 4 and serve as the season-opener for both schools.

The schools have met three times previously, all of them in Gainesville. Florida won 59-20 on Nov. 17, 2007, 41-3 on Sept. 3, 2011, and 20-14 on Nov. 21, 2015.

The game will round out both schools’ non-conference schedules.

Florida will visit USF on Sept. 11, host Florida State on Nov. 27 and has a TBD home game against Samford, most likely on Nov. 20.

Today’s news means Florida has a future game on the schedule with every FBS program in the Sunshine State except UCF and Florida International. Florida beat Miami in Orlando to open this season and will play a home-and-home with the ‘Canes in 2024-25.

Florida Atlantic will follow its Gainesville trip with an excursion to Colorado Springs to play Air Force. After that, the Owls will host Fordham and Georgia Southern to round out September.

 

With Husky mascot retiring in 2021, Northern Illinois to introduce successor on Tuesday

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Northern Illinois’ husky mascot, Mission, is retiring in 2021, and on Tuesday the school will introduce his successor.

Mission II, born on July 6 and weighing a tender 14.5 ounces, will replace Mission two years from now, and the puppy will begin his official duties as NIU’s next official mascot on Tuesday.

“We have long been searching for the heir apparent to Mission, and there is no question that we have found the right Huskie,” NIU Alumni Association Executive Director Reggie Bustinza said. “Mission has set very high expectations, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mission II cannot only meet those demands, but surpass them.

“We are happy that Mission will have plenty of years to enjoy his retirement.”

Mission will turn 10 years old in 2021, and by that time Mission II will be fully versed in all the expectations placed upon the Official Northern Illinois Husky.

Mission II, a Siberian husky born in southern Wisconsin, will accompany Mission “to all eligible events for experiential learning and proofing,” which begins at a tasting for an NIU-branded beer on Tuesday evening in DeKalb.

The school has not revealed when Mission II will make his debut at a Husky football game, and in the meantime he’ll continue training with Lisa Boland while also attending daily puppy classes.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing Mission and Mission II do the job together during the training period,” Boland said. “It will be wonderful to watch ‘Mini-Mish’ learn from Mission, and see them work as a team. Mission has set a very high bar in mascotting, and Mission II will be working very hard to follow in his footsteps. I am so proud of Mission and the work that he’s done as the official NIU mascot.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege of guiding his successor to best represent Huskie Nation.”

Troy loses RB B.J. Smith, SBC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, to season-ending injury

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This one will certainly leave a lasting mark.

Over the summer, Troy’s B.J. Smith was named as the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Two months later, the football program confirmed, the running back will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2019 season because of an injury sustained in the Week 3 loss to Southern Miss.

While the specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged by the school, it’s believed Smith injured his knee midway through the second quarter of last Saturday’s game.

Last season, Smith led the Trojans with 1,186 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.  This season, the fourth-year senior had rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in two games.

Because of the timing of the injury, Smith can take a redshirt for the 2019 season and return to the Trojans next season.

Texas LB Caleb Johnson enters transfer portal

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Sitting at the quarter-pole of the 2019 regular season, and Texas is the latest FBS program to feel the pain of the portal.

Joe Cook of InsideTexas.com was the first to report that Caleb Johnson has placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report, writing that the junior linebacker “feels he has not fit in well since he arrived at Texas.”

247Sports provided further details as to the events leading up to Johnson’s decision.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson met with the staff Monday morning to inform them of his intentions to enter the transfer portal. While the staff requested he think more about his decision, Johnson decided to enter his name into he NCAA Transfer Portal, and is listed in the portal as of Tuesday morning.

Johnson joined the Longhorns from the junior college level, enrolling early and taking part in spring practice this past offseason.  He was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 3 JUCO outside linebacker in this past year’s class.

Through three games, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the field for the Big 12 program.