MSU, OSU trade first-half jabs as Buckeyes take lead into locker room

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Essentially, the Ohio State-Michigan State game Saturday night is a play-in game for the Big Ten East division title and the league championship game.  After two quarters, the rematch of last year’s conference championship game that began looking like another Spartan statement turned into the Buckeyes taking over the microphone.

After the first two quarters in East Lansing, OSU and MSU are tied at 21-all on a cold and blustery night in East Lansing.  Outscored 14-7 in the first quarter, the Buckeyes turned the tables and outscored the Spartans 21-7 in the second.

The Spartans took a 21-14 lead late in the second quarter on a Jeremy Langford one-yard touchdown run.  On the ensuing kickoff, a Dontre Wilson fumble — his second of the game on a return — handed the ball right back to the Spartans at the OSU 18-yard line.  On the third play of the drive, Langford scored on an 11-yard touchdown run… only to have a holding penalty take away the score.  MSU had to settle for a 39-yard field goal attempt, which was promptly missed.

OSU took full and immediate advantage of the missteps, with J.T. Barrett connecting on a 79-yard touchdown pass with wide receiver and Keyshawn Johnson nephew Matthew Thomas to knot things up at 21-all.

The Buckeyes forced a punt on the Spartans’ next possession, and Barrett again made the home team pay as he hit Devin Smith on a pretty 44-yard scoring pass.

There were two other series of plays early on, however, that changed the tenor of the contest mightily and decidedly in favor of the Spartans.

After forcing an MSU punt midway through the first quarter, OSU was poised to take possession around midfield in a game that was tied at 7-all at the time.  Instead, the punt hit the leg of a Buckeye and was recovered by the Spartans.  The next play, Langford ran the ball 33 yards to put MSU up 14-7.

On OSU’s next possession, the Buckeyes drove from their own 27-yard line to a first down inside MSU’s 10-yard line… only to see a 15-yard hands-to-the-face penalty wipe out that first down.  A sack and an intentional grounding call on third and 29 pushed the Buckeyes into a fourth and 43 from their own 45-yard line, with the Buckeyes punting the ball back to the Spartans.

OSU had little trouble navigating MSU’s vaunted defense as they rolled to 332 first-half yards; MSU came into the game giving up just 279 yards per game.  The two turnovers vs. none for Sparty, however, played a significant role in the game.  The Spartans, meanwhile, were able to produce 238 yards of offense.

Barrett only completed 10 first-half passes, but still threw for 232 yards.  Smith accounted for six of the completions and 129 of the yards.  Ezekiel Elliott, meanwhile, ran for 71 yards on seven carries.

Connor Cook, the offensive hero of last year’s Big Ten title game, endured a rough two quarters, completing just 6-of-18 passes for 98 yards.    Langford ran for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 10 carries.

The Spartans, incidentally, will get the ball to start the second half.

ACC, Pitt headline Bednarik Award preseason watch list

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The Bednarik Award is the first major honor to release its watch list for the upcoming season.  But it certainly won’t be the last.  Far from it, actually.

In a release Monday, the Bednarik Award announced a 90-player strong watch list that represents every FBS conference in the country.  The Bednarik Award has been presented annually since 1996 to the nation’s top player on the defensive side of the ball.

The ACC leads all conferences with 18 watch listers, with the Pac- 12 (13), SEC (11) and Big 12 (10) the only others in double digits.  The Big Ten, the remaining Power Five, placed nine players.

Wit eight, Conference USA led all Group of Five leagues.  Next up was the AAC’s six, followed by the Mountain West Conference and Sun Belt Conference with five each and four for the MAC.

School-wise, reigning national champion LSU, Pitt and USC placed three players apiece.  A handful of other schools put two players each on the watch list:

  • Alabama
  • Appalachian State
  • Cal
  • Duke
  • Florida State
  • Georgia
  • Miami
  • Michigan
  • Notre Dame
  • Oregon
  • San Diego State
  • TCU
  • Texas
  • UAB
  • Virginia
  • Virginia Tech
  • Washington

No finalists from a year ago remain as both the winner (Ohio State’s Chase Young) and the two runners-up (Auburn’s Derrick Brown, Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons) have since moved on to the NFL.  There are, though, three semifinalists for last year’s award that are back this season — Penn State’s Micah Parson, LSU’s Derek Stingley and Florida State’s Marvin Wilson.

For the complete Bednarik Award watch list, click HERE.

Four-star 2021 QB son of Deion Sanders commits to FAU

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FAU football is building up quite the surname legacy within its program. Even as a couple have recently departed.

Last month, Miami transfer tight end Michael Irvin II, the son of former Hurricanes legend Michael Irvin, announced that he was committing to the FAU football program.  A little over a month later, Shedeur Sanders (pictured, left) announced on Twitter that he too has committed to FAU football.

The touted 2021 prospect is one of the football-playing sons of former Florida State All-American Deion Sanders.

Sanders is a four-star 2021 prospect coming out of high school in Cedar Hill, Texas.  On the 247Sports.com composite, the 6-1, 198-pound Sanders is the No. 14 pro-style quarterback in the country.  he also held offers from, among others, Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oregon and Tennessee.

Sanders’ older brother, Shiloh, will be a redshirt freshman defensive back at South Carolina this season.

While the Sanders and Irvin surnames are in the Owls fold, a couple of famous ones have recently left.  The wide receiver son of Ray Lewis left FAU football earlier this month.  Originally committed to FAU, the running back son of Frank Gore ultimately signed with Southern Miss earlier this offseason.

FAU is coming off a 2019 football campaign in which the Owls tied a school record with 11 wins.  Included in that was a first-ever win in the Conference USA championship game.  And the program’s fourth straight win in a bowl game, a streak that stretches back to 2007.

Almost immediately after the win in the Boca Raton BowlLane Kiffin left to take over as the head coach at Ole Miss.  Kiffin was replaced shortly thereafter by former Florida State and Oregon head coach Willie Taggart.

Les Miles, Kansas ‘heartbroken’ over passing of student manager Jack Roche, who died over the weekend after being hit by a car

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The extended Kansas football family is mourning the loss of one it’s own over the weekend.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, and citing multiple people close to the Kansas football program, Jack Roche died in his hometown of Chicago late Saturday night after being hit by a car.  Roche had just turned 21 in May.  He was also scheduled to graduate from the university the same month next year.

Roche had spent the past couple of years as a student manager for the Jayhawks.  Les Miles just completed his first season as the Kansas football head coach, and mourned the young man’s passing in a tweet Sunday night.

“The KU football family is heartbroken to hear of the passing of Jack Roche,” the coach wrote. “Jack was a tremendous, hard-working young man who embodied what our program is all about. We will remember Jack and he will forever be a part of our family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Roches.”

Roche was beloved by players past and present as well.

“He always had a smile on his face and was genuinely one of the best people in the entire program,” ex-Jayhawk quarterback Carter Stanley said according to the Journal-World. “We’d talk every day, but I’d go in earlier than usual on Mondays and we’d share the results of our fantasy football teams from the day before, which usually gave me a chance to give him a hard time for being a Bears fan.”

Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Roche’s way-too-soon passing.

SEC reiterates no decision on football until late July

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As expected, the SEC is going to wait as long as possible until making its next decision when it comes to the fate of football.

Last week, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey warned that “we are running out of time” when it comes to the 2020 college football season.  That said, Sankey reiterated Monday that his conference will still wait to make any type of decision until the end of this month.

Below is Sankey’s statement on the current state of affairs, which came after an expected face-to-face meeting of the conference’s 14 athletic directors.  The biggest takeaway? Sankey allowed that the current trend of COVID-19 positives across the country must begin trending downward in order for there to be a college football season in 2020.

We had a productive meeting on Monday and engaged in discussions on a number of important issues that will contribute to critical decisions to be made in the weeks ahead. The ability to personally interact over the course of an entire day contributed to the productivity of the meeting.

It is clear that current circumstances related to COVID-19 must improve and we will continue to closely monitor developments around the virus on a daily basis. In the coming weeks we will continue to meet regularly with campus leaders via videoconferences and gather relevant information while guided by medical advisors. We believe that late July will provide the best clarity for making the important decisions ahead of us.

The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced they are going to a conference-only schedule for football.  The ACC is in line with the SEC in making such a determination at the end of July.  It’s expected the Big 12 will announce its next move around the same time as well.