OK, let’s take some time to collectively catch our breath, because the first half of the SEC Championship Game had quite the back-and-forth, up-and-down pace to it with a little bit of everything dashed in. Between three turnovers, including a defensive touchdown, an onside kick and big plays by both teams, there is not much we have not seen at this point. Auburn holds a 28-27 edge on Missouri at the half in Atlanta.
The first quarter had a good handful of highlights. Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham provided a spectacular touchdown catch to give Missouri a 10-7 lead, leaping and reaching for a ball only he would be able to get his hands on and holding on to the football as he came crashing to the ground with a defender hanging on. Or so it seemed. Video replay showed the touchdown may have actually been incomplete, but the play was not even an extended review before Missouri kicked the extra point. Auburn may have gotten the raw end of the play, but they shrugged it aside and ran right down field on the ensuing possession, 75 yards on five plays ending with a Nick Marshall touchdown. Marshall did make a couple of mistakes in the first half, including a fumble that was scooped up by Missouri’s E.J. Gaines and returned for a touchdown. That gave Missouri a 17-14 lead, but the Auburn Tigers would battle back and take control of the game on the ground. Auburn has already rushed for 283 yards, the most yards allowed on the ground this season by Missouri, 283 yards.
The key player in that rushing production has been Auburn running back Tre Mason. Mason is closing in on the SEC Championship Game rushing record, and he should pick it up early in the second half. After rushing for 194 yards against Missouri’s defense, Mason needs just seven more yards to tie the game’s rushing record, previously set by LSU’s Justin Vincent, who rushed for 201 yards 2003. Mason added two touchdowns from inside the ten-yard line.
Before the end of the half, Missouri cut in to Auburn’s 28-20 lead when James Franklin connected with Green-Backham, who left his defender in the dust and had nobody stopping him on the way to the end zone. This is going to be a wild finish, but will either team prove worthy of a trip to Pasadena?
One of the stories about this game involves whether or not a one-loss SEC champion should be in the BCS Championship Game. As it stands right now, as long as Florida State and Ohio State win their conference championship games later tonight, the SEC will likely be shut out of the title game, bringing an end to the BCS championship streak. Neither team seems to be showing enough to warrant jumping the Seminoles or Buckeyes if the two undefeated teams win their conference championships today.
Punters are transfers too and Northwestern just picked one up.
The Bowling Green Daily News is reporting that Western Kentucky punter Jake Collins was given his release from the school and will be a graduate transfer to Northwestern. He is listed as a redshirt freshman and will be immediately eligible.
Collins has been the Hilltoppers punter the last three years and averaged 40.2 yards per punt last season. If you’re scratching your head hearing the name or school and wondering where you remember him from, Collins went viral for perhaps the worst fake punt in the history of fake punts when WKU played Florida International:
Collins will likely wind up replacing Hunter Niswander with the Wildcats after he graduated. His departure does leave WKU without a punter listed on their roster though some changes and walk-ons might wind up filling the spot for the 2018 season.
While some coaches fight tooth and nail to release any information about their program like who might be starting a game (cough, Jim Harbaugh, cough), that is not exactly how Clemson’s Dabo Swinney runs his shop. Case in point came Wednesday when the team released a “preseason” depth chart that featured few surprises but plenty of talent as the Tigers likely begin the year in the top four of just about everybody’s early polls.
Of course, the one storyline most people will focus on is the quarterback position for the team. Senior Kelly Bryant is listed as the starter as expected following spring practice but it is notable that there’s now a clear pecking order behind him as he fights off five-star freshman Trevor Lawrence, who was the clear No. 2 at the position following the transfer of Hunter Johnson. There seems to be some distance between Lawrence and fellow (redshirt) freshman Chase Brice, which means just about everybody will be wondering if No. 2 at the spot will eventually take over if Bryant gets off to a slow start in 2018 after some struggles in Clemson’s postseason run.
Elsewhere, there were a handful of positions that raised an eyebrow, including running back Travis Etienne jumping over last year’s starter at the position in Tavien Feaster. Adam Choice will also see plenty of time as that’s yet another deep spot for the team. Also notable is Kendall Joseph sliding over to take the starting job at middle linebacker in place of the guy who manned the same spot last season in Tre Lamar.
The school also notes that they have 17 returning starters (including both specialists), including their fearsome defensive line that “is the first in NCAA history to have four returning players who have been a first or second-team All-American previously.” Needless to say, Clemson will once again be the heavy favorite to win the ACC and make yet another trip to the national championship game.
The latest incident to trigger a resetting the “Days Without An Arrest” trigger is a rather serious-sounding one.
According to multiple media outlets in the area, Kentucky’s Marcus Walker was arrested early Thursday morning on multiple drug charges. WKYT-TV in Lexington reports that the defensive back was jailed — and remains jailed at this time — on charges of trafficking in cocaine and marijuana as well as one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.
From the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Walker… was arrested at 4:40 a.m. Thursday by Lexington Police. He was allegedly trafficking in about 5 pounds of marijuana and 4 grams of cocaine, his arrest citation said. He was also charged with possessing drug paraphernalia.
A large amount of cash was also found when Lexington Police executed its search warrant at a home on Unity Drive, police said.
A UK spokesperson stated that the football program is “aware of the situation and are in the process of gathering more information.”
247Sports.com‘s composite board had Walker rated as a three-star recruit in the Class of 2015. After redshirting as a true freshman, the Florida native played in 21 games the past two seasons — 12 in 2017, nine in 2016. He’s been credited with 17 tackles in those two seasons, including a career-high seven in a 2016 win over Austin Peay.
It’s been more than half a century since they last met, but a pair of teams from the ACC and Big Ten are set to get it on once again. Eventually.
Both Pitt (head coach from 2012-14: Paul Chryst) and Wisconsin (current head coach: Paul Chryst) announced Thursday that the football programs have reached an agreement on a future home-and-home series. The Panthers will travel to Madison on Sept. 19, 2026, while the Badgers will make the trek to Heinz Field the following season on Sept. 11.
“In speaking with (Wisconsin athletic director) Barry Alvarez, we both felt this was a great scheduling opportunity,” Alvarez’s Pitt counterpart, Heather Lyke, said in a statement. “Despite our regional proximity, we’ve rarely played each other in football. It is a challenging and compelling non-conference game that our respective teams and fans can look forward to.”
The two teams have played each other twice previously, with the most recent coming during the 1967 season. The last time the Badgers faced the Panthers in Pittsburgh came in 1937.
Pitt has won all three games in the mini-series, two of which were played in Madison (1938, 1967).