The last time Auburn took the pristine field at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Chris Davis carried the ball 109 yards, past the Alabama field goal unit and into the pages of history. Nine months later, Gus Malzahn and the No. 6 Auburn Tigers picked up right where they left off, cruising past Arkansas 45-21.
Jeremy Johnson earned the start for a double-secret suspended Nick Marshall and could not have started hotter, guiding Auburn on touchdown drives of 75, 75 and 98 to open the game. The sophomore hit his first eight throws for 204 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which came on the same extended play-action that tied the Alabama game, carrying Melvin Ray 49 yards into the same end zone where Ricardo Louis stunned Georgia and where the Tigers scored the tying and winning touchdowns against Alabama. Johnson played the entire first half and did all of his damage through the air, hitting 13-of-17 passes for 243 yards and those two scores.
Marshall played the second half and got the familiar Malzahn-patented running game going. In addition to his own 19-yard scoring dash to open the second half, Marshall’s presence gave Auburn’s running backs space to do their best Tre Mason impressions. Cameron Artis-Payne rushed 26 for 178 yards and one touchdown, and Corey Grant added 10 carries for 87 yards and another score.
Arkansas matched Auburn score for score early. With an offensive line that the SEC Network broadcast noted as the fourth-largest in all of football, the Razorbacks pummeled the Auburn front for 151 yards on seven yards a pop in forging a 21-21 halftime deadlock, but defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson’s unit dominated the second half. Every second half Arkansas possession traveled 20 yards or less and ended in a punt, except for the one Jermaine Whitehead ended with a 33-yard pick six that effectively shut down any chance of an upset.
After rushing for those 151 first-half yards, Arkansas was nearly doubled up on the ground, 302-153. That means Arkansas rushed for two yards in the second half.
The second half was fractured by a one hour, 28 minute weather delay. And, in the ultimate act of vengeance by the football gods, after years debate over the hurry-up no-huddle and debates about “what we want football to be” that saw Bret Bielema and Malzahn taking polar opposite sides, the Jordan-Hare Stadium clocks were inoperable for the entire first half.
While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.
Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released. LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship. Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1. Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.
Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners. Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.
The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.
LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004. Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.
When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.
Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman. A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.
“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.
“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”
The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach. He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.
The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.
Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.
Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri. Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”
An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.
The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football. App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.
Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.
A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.
As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.
The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.
Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.