Mich. St. stuns Baylor with B1G 4th-quarter comeback, wins Cotton Bowl

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For the first 10 minutes or so of the game, it looked like Michigan State had a chance against Baylor.  Over the next 35 minutes, they looked like they never really stood much of a chance.  The last 15 minutes?  Sparty Hell Yes!

In an unbelievable turn of events, No. 8 Michigan State (11-2) overcame a 20-point deficit entering the fourth to stun No. 5 Baylor (11-2) 42-41 in the 79th annual Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic that was just that: a classic.  What improbably was the game-winner came with just 11 ticks left on the clock to complete the stunning fourth-quarter turnaround.

Connor Cook was hit and miss all afternoon, completing 24-of-42 passes for 324 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.  He gutted it out, though, right until the dramatic end after entering the final 15 minutes on the wrong end of a 41-21 score.

The second of Cook’s picks was actually returned for a touchdown that would’ve given the Bears a 48-28 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining and seemingly sealed a blowout win for BU, but was instead called back because of a block in the back.  That would prove to be the first significant turning point in the comeback as, six plays later, the Bears gave the ball back to the Spartans on downs, and MSU promptly drove down the field and scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 41-35 with 4:55 remaining.

A blocked field goal attempt and return to the MSU 45 with just over a minute remaining — after a lengthy Bear reception had originally given them the ball inside the five but was pushed back because of an offensive face mask penalty — gave Sparty one final shot.  A Cook 28-yard completion got the Spartans to the 27-yard line and then, on fourth down, a 17-yard completion left the offense with a first and goal with 30 or so seconds remaining.  Then, with :11 remaining, Cook hit Keith Mumphery on a 10-yard touchdown pass for what proved to be the game-winning score.

Baylor had one last slim chance, but a Bryce Petty interception officially sealed the stunning loss for the Bears, which was the beneficiary of its own huge fourth-quarter comeback against TCU earlier this season.

Petty, though, was a significant part of the reason the Bears were in the College Football Playoff discussion all season long, and was the majority reason for what was looking early on like a win today.  Petty, a senior playing in his last game at the collegiate level, passed for a Cotton Bowl-record 557 yards and three touchdowns.  It was the last of that trio of touchdowns, though, that was the play of the game from my perspective as it went to 390-pound Laquan McGowan.  Again, a man who weighs 390 pounds — and that’s a listed weight that seems to err on the side of caution as his official bio calls him an “[e]normous fourth-year junior offensive lineman — scored on a touchdown reception.

That’s beautiful.  I wept.

All told, the Bears totaled 583 yards of offense, and did that despite the fact that they ran for minus-20 yards on 22 rush attempts.  Their 602 yards passing as a team set a school record.  BU had a pair of receivers catch more than 100 yards in passes as KD Cannon, a freshman who will be one of the favorites for the Biletnikoff Award in 2015, had 197 yards on eight receptions and Corey Coleman went seven for 150.

Jeremy Langford was also a significant bright spot for MSU as he ran for 162 yards and three touchdowns.  This was Langford’s 10th straight 100-yards game after failing to break that plateau in the season’s first three games.

MSU’s two losses this season, incidentally, came to teams that are currently ranked second (Oregon, 46-27) and fourth (Ohio State, 49-37).

After losing its first three games of the postseason, the Big 12 is now 1-4 in bowl games in 2014-15.  Including an overtime win by Wisconsin and loss by Minnesota New Year’s Day — both against SEC squads — the Big Ten is suddenly very respectable 4-4 mark.  The latter conference still has a significant shot at further redemption for the league as No. 4 Ohio State takes on top-ranked Alabama in a Sugar Bowl matchup that doubles as the last of two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add this:

Ohio State 49, Michigan State 37.
Baylor 61, TCU 58.
Michigan State 42, Baylor 41.

Therefore, Ohio State > Michigan State > Baylor > TCU.  Do with that what you will.

LSU opens as double-digit favorites on Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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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.

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.