Buckeyes make B1G statement, hope it resonates with committee


College Football Playoff committee, the ball is now officially in your court.

Saving its best for the biggest and most important stage of the 2014 season, No. 5 Ohio State turned in arguably the most impressive Week 15 performance among the playoff contenders, taking No. 13 Wisconsin to the woodshed in a 59-0 evisceration in a Big Ten championship game win that gave OSU its first conference title since 2009.  It also served as UW’s worst loss since a 59-0 drubbing at the hands of, you guessed it, OSU in 1979.

In every phase of the game, the Buckeyes were dominant — and even that word doesn’t do it justice.

Offensively, the Buckeyes rolled up 558 yards.  That’s the most given up by the Badgers’ defense this season, surpassing the 412 yards by Iowa two weeks ago.  Triggering that offensive explosion was Cardale Jones.

In his first start at the collegiate level, Jones was superb, completing 12-of-17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns.  Coming in, the redshirt sophomore had thrown for 121 yards in his career.  Aside from no turnovers against the No. 2 defense in the country, the most impressive part of the performance was that, at no point in time, did the game look too big or too fast for the athletic 250-pound quarterback.

Devin Smith caught four of those passes for 137 yards and all three touchdowns, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for a career-high 220 yards on 20 carries.  The yards, incidentally, breaks Melvin Gordon‘s title-game record of 216 yards set against Nebraska in 2012.  Speaking of that particular running back…

Defensively, the Buckeyes absolutely shut down Gordon, with the Heisman contender averaging just 2.9 yards on his 26 carries; the junior came in averaging exactly eights yards an attempt .  With 76 yards, Gordon failed to rush for at least 100 yards for the first time since Week 2 That was part of an impressive defensive effort overall, with OSU holding UW to 258 yards and, most importantly, zero points.

And, for good measure, punter Cameron Johnston was a significant weapon on special teams.  Johnston had a net average of 53 yards on four punts, with two of those pinning UW inside the 10-yard line.  One of those was a 73-yarder that left the Badgers starting at the two-yard line.

With the Badgers summarily dispatched, the Buckeyes’ attention now turns to the playoff and the 12-person committee that will decide their postseason fate.  Two of the four spots in the four-team playoff belong to Alabama and Oregon.  Four teams will now be fighting for the remaining two spots: unbeaten and fourth-ranked Florida State and one-loss Baylor (No. 6), Ohio State (No. 5) and TCU (No. 3).

Which direction will the committee go?  I’ll go into that deeper in the Fifth Quarter, but I’ll say this: if I were the Big 12, I’d be fairly nervous at this point in time.  And cautiously optimistic if I’m the other two, especially FSU.

Speaking of the committee…

Arkansas confirms hiring of Georgia OL coach Sam Pittman as head coach

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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.

Mizzou zeroing in on Eli Drinkwitz as next head coach

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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.

Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock reportedly suffered ACL tear in SEC title game loss

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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.

Reports: Arkansas closing in on hiring Sam Pittman as head coach

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It appears we’re only steps away from the Hogs getting called.

According to a number of reports surfacing on Sunday, Arkansas has pivoted from hiring now-Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin to bringing in Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman as the team’s next head coach.

Pittman is widely regarded as one of the best assistant coaches in the SEC and developed a quality reputation for both recruiting and teaching along the offensive line. He was in Fayetteville from 2013-2015 under Bret Bielema and spent time at Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas and Northern Illinois and others over the years.

The Oklahoma native was recently elevated to associate head coach in Athens and was one of the few position coaches to come close making $1 million a year without a coordinator title.

Pittman will replace Chad Morris, who was fired in early November after going winless in conference play and posting a 4-18 overall record with the Hogs in less than two seasons.