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…

Indiana completes coaching staff with Tulane DL coach Kevin Peoples

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After being left at the altar by a Michigan State assistant coach, Indiana had found a way to plug its hole at defensive line coach. Kevin Peoples is reportedly leaving Tulane to join the Hoosiers, multiple reports said on Monday. News of the coaching hire in Bloomington was first shared by Football Scoop.

Peoples will be taking on the job on the Indiana coaching staff previously set to be filled by Michigan State assistant Ron Burton. Burton decided to remain in East Lansing with the Spartans and new head coach Mel Tucker over the weekend before officially making his way from one Big Ten school to another. With the addition of Peoples to the coaching staff, the Hoosiers will now have a full coaching staff barring any potential adjustments before spring football begins.

With Peoples in charge of the defensive line, Tulane was not among the conference leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in the American Athletic Conference in 2019, but Tulane did have the conference’s fourth-best rushing defense; Tulane allowed 156.31 rushing yards per game in 2019, an averages that is inflated slightly from playing Navy in conference play (allowed 385 yards to the triple-option Midshipmen) and Army in non-conference play as well as a road game against Auburn. Tulane allowed just 58 rushing yards in its bowl victory over Southern Mississippi.

Peoples is filling the role previously held by Mark Hagen. Hagen left Indiana to accept a coaching position with Texas this offs

Utah, LSU to play home-and-home in early ’30s

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The SEC and Pac-12 are in a bit of a love affair right now. Actually, scratch that. They’re full-on obsessed with one another.

More than 30 SEC v. Pac-12 games are on the docket for future years, and two more were added to the ledger on Monday when LSU and Utah inked a home-and-home.

Utah will host LSU on Sept. 6, 2031, and LSU will return the favor on Sept. 11, 2032.

“Our aspirations to continue to grow and elevate our football program make opportunities like this especially important,” Utah AD Mark Harlan said. “For our student-athletes it is an incredible opportunity to play a high-profile opponent in two fantastic environments. It also is incredibly attractive to our fans to host a team like LSU at Rice-Eccles Stadium and to go on the road to Baton Rouge and cheer on their Utes.”

Utah has two more home-and-homes against SEC schools coming, against Florida in 2022-23 and Arkansas in 2026 and ’28. LSU has home-and-homes with UCLA (2021, ’24) and Arizona State (2029-30) on its docket.

The schools have met twice previously, with LSU winning in Baton Rouge both time, 35-10 in 1974 and 35-7 in ’76.

Bret Bielema reportedly interviewing for Colorado job

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Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.

Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.

The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.

He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.

Mel Tucker reels in 3-star RB who delayed signing after Dantonio retirement

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Mel Tucker secured his first signee over the weekend, which is impressive since he didn’t take the job until after the 2020 signing periods.

Jordon Simmons, a 3-star running back from Powder Springs, Ga., committed to Michigan State back in October but did not sign in the early period or the late period.

After Mark Dantonio‘s retirement the night before the February signing period, Simmons announced he would not sign with the Spartans the following day.

“Due to the unforeseen retirement of Coach Dantonio and after discussing things with my family, I have decided to delay my signing with Michigan State University until further notice,” he tweeted the night of Dantonio’s announcement. “I love everything that Michigan State has to offer and I appreciate the love and support that the fan base has shown me. However, with the uncertainty of the MSU program I have decided to take some time to weight out my options and think about where I will spend the next 4 years.”

After taking a couple weeks to consider his options and get to know his new head coach, Simmons inked with the Spartans once and for all.

The Simmons saga shows that, should players obtain a free release to play elsewhere if their head coach leaves in between the time they sign scholarship papers and their freshman seasons, most of those players would still wind up at their original school simply because they’d be out of options elsewhere.