Oregon takes 18-13 lead to the break over Florida State

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The first half of the Rose Bowl has unfolded exactly to script for both Florida State and Oregon: Marcus Mariota is dazzling, and the Seminoles are trailing. The Ducks lead 18-13 at the break. This is the ninth time – and fifth consecutive game – that Florida State has trailed this season.

Mariota has completed 18-of-26 passes for 157 yards with a late interception and rushed seven times for 39 yards (and evading a number of sacks in the process), while Winston has had a quiet half by comparison, hitting 13-of-21 throws for 136 yards and rushing five times for two yards. Dalvin Cook has been the engine powering the Seminoles’ attack with 12 carries for 90 yards.

Florida State forced a three-and-out on the first possession of the game and then marched 33 yards for a 43-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal, but Oregon linebacker Torrodney Prevot was flagged for a hands-to-the-face personal foul, giving the ‘Noles new life. However, the Oregon defense stiffened, thanks in large part to a Prevot sack-strip that cost Florida State seven yards, and limited only a 28-yard Aguayo field goal.

Oregon immediately responded, moving 73 yards in nine plays over just 2:11, taking the lead with a one-yard Royce Freeman plunge and then pushing the score to 8-3 with a Taylor Alie pass to Christian French. The Ducks had a chance to seize an extra large slice of momentum after forcing a three-and-out and taking over at the Florida State 40 thanks to a Cason Beatty shank, but Mark Helfrich‘s gamble to eschew a field goal while facing a 4th-and-5 at the 22 backfired as Mariota’s pass to Freeman was broken up by Ronald Darby.

The key sequence of the first half – and perhaps each team’s respective season – came at the end of the first quarter and very beginning of the second. Florida State marched from its own 23 to the Oregon one only to see the Ducks string out a 3rd down stretch play to Karlos Williams, but linebacker Tyson Coleman was offside, giving the ‘Noles new life.

But Williams was stuffed on 3rd down from the one and, with a quarter break to think about it, Jimbo Fisher called an option play on 4th-and-goal from the one on the first play of the second quarter. Winston kept and was initially ruled in for a touchdown, but the score was overturned on review. He was half a yard short.Oregon then moved 88 yards in 19 plays – needing just 4:45 – to put Aidan Schneider in position for a 28-yard field goal, turning what could have been a 10-8 Florida State lead into an 11-3 deficit.

Florida State added another field goal – settling, really, after setting up another 1st-and-goal and then committing a false start and delay of game – and Oregon answered with a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, this one capped by a one-yard Thomas Tyner run.

As they’ve done all season, Florida State closed the half with a touchdown. Winston marched the ‘Noles 71 yards, and Karlos Williams punched in a 10-yard score to pull Florida State within 18-13 with 36 ticks remaining.

Oregon drove across the water to close the half instead of laying up, and the Ducks paid the price as a Mariota overthrow was intercepted by Nate Andrews. Florida State had a chance to pull even closer before the break, but Aguayo’s 54-yard try on the final play of the half clanked off the left goalpost.

Injuries have been a factor for both teams in the first half. Nick O’Leary tweaked his hamstring in pre-game warm-ups, but started the game and caught a five-yard reception on a 3rd-and-4, extending Florida State’s lone touchdown drive. For Oregon, Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen limped off after a 20-yard opening kickoff and was later wheeled to the locker room.

Florida State will receive the ball to open the second half.

MWC, Sun Belt commissioners join AAC in starting to stump for Group of Five bid

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Most of the political world may be focused on the upcoming Democratic debates this month but for a slice of the college football world, no debate looms larger than the one concerning who gets the automatic Group of Five bid to the New Year’s Six.

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco has been on a media blitz recently to sump for his league the past two weeks, appearing on a variety of outlets as diverse as Bloomberg to the regular national radio and talk shows that dot the landscape. His message is a pretty simple one that he backs up with plenty of strength of schedule arguments but is essentially: the winner of Saturday’s Memphis-Cincinnati game should get the invite regardless what happens elsewhere.

The Tigers have been the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s top-ranked Group of Five team recently and likely sit with a win-and-in scenario. The question is though, what happens if the two-loss Bearcats emerge victorious?

That’s what fans of Boise State and Appalachian State are hoping for as both, if they win their respective conference title games, will be positioned to grab the bit in a close race with the AAC winner.

Now it appears that both the MWC and Sun Belt commissioners are joining Aresco in getting their talking points out in hopes that they somehow make their way to the committee’s ears.

“I am disappointed that Appalachian State is not ranked higher,” Sun Belt commish Keith Gill told The Athletic this week. “They are 11-1, 6-0 on the road, the only Group of 5 team to beat two Autonomy 5 teams on the road, and I believe that their body of work deserves more respect.”

“We just let the results kind of speak for themselves,” MWC counterpart Craig Thompson added. “I think we’ve done enough. When it really gets down to it, it’s the people in the room at the Gaylord in Texas (the CFP committee) that’ll make the determination. So as long as we’re stating our case, everything else is kind of superfluous. It really doesn’t matter what others think. It’s those people that are raising their hand”

While neither are quite beating the drum like their AAC counterpart, it’s clear there’s going to be plenty of campaigning for the elusive spot — and the hefty revenue bump that comes with it — from now until Sunday.

NCAA committee chair hints at changes coming to four-game redshirt rule

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This college football season has been a bit different from most thanks to a combination of two factors that have very little to do with the play on the field: a new rule allowing players to redshirt despite playing in four games and the NCAA transfer portal.

Amid a flurry of player movement as a result of those two, on top of unique situations like Houston’s D’Eriq King deciding to take a redshirt in what amounts to a lost year for the Cougars, it seems the powers at be are already eyeing tweaking the current status quo. West Virgnia AD Shane Lyons chairs the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and remarked on a local radio show that adjustments to the current set of rules are likely to be discussed during meetings at the NCAA convention in January.

“I don’t think it’s a good optic for college sports,” Lyons said, according to the West Virginia MetroNews. “The way it looks, a student-athlete is potentially quitting on his team.

“It’s something the committee will look at in their January meeting to make any adjustments as necessary.”

Despite the redshirt rule originating from coaches themselves, in practice it has proven to be problematic for many because players have either removed themselves from action in order to save up a season and play elsewhere or simply entered the transfer portal. Such roster management concerns have led to plenty of criticism about the unintended consequences of the changes and now it appears the adults in the room are getting together to come up with a few changes to defeat the reasoning behind both rules.

We’ll see what happens between now and the January meetings but the days of going four-and-out for some might be coming to an end with the 2019 season.

Nearly half of Saturday’s conference championship games feature double-digit odds

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At least based on the sportsbooks, you shouldn’t expect much drama on championship weekend — which means we should all brace for absolute and utter hell breaking loose, of course.

Friday night and on into Saturday, the 10 FBS conferences will hold their respective league championship games, the results of which will not only shape the College Football Playoff but the New Year’s Six Bowls and all the way down to the lower-tier bowls. As of this posting, and by way of the BetMGM Sportsbook, nearly half of those 10 title games feature double-digit odds:

  • ACC — No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson (-28½)
  • Big Ten — No. 1 Ohio State (-15½) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
  • Mountain West — Hawaii vs. No. 19 Boise State (-13½)
  • AAC — No. 20 Cincinnati vs. No. 17 Memphis (-10½)

A fifth, the Big 12 championship game, is nearly double-digits as No. 6 Oklahoma is a 9½-point favorite over No. 7 Baylor.

The other five matchups have hovered around seven points or so, including the SEC title game featuring 6½-point favorite and second-ranked LSU clashing with No. 4 Georgia, since the matchups were decided last weekend:

  • Pac-12 (Friday night) — No. 5 Utah (-6½) vs. No. 13 Oregon
  • Sun Belt — Louisiana vs. No. 21 Appalachian State (-6½)
  • MAC — Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan (-6½)
  • Conference USA — UAB vs. Florida Atlantic (-7½)

Ohio State first school to score Top-10 wins in football, hoops in four days since… Michigan three decades ago

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Some history was made overnight that involves both sides of The Game.

Wednesday night, sixth-ranked Ohio State took seventh-ranked North Carolina to the woodshed in a 74-49 win, handing the Tar Heels the basketball program’s worst-ever home loss at the Dean Dome under Roy Williams.  Four days earlier, second-ranked Ohio State took 10th-ranked Michigan to the woodshed in a 56-27 win, handing the Wolverines their eighth straight loss — and 15th in 16 meetings — in the rivalry.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, this marks the first time in nearly three decades and just the second time ever that one school had scored wins in Associated Press Top-10 matchups in football and basketball in a span of four days or fewer.  The only other school to pull off that feat?  Michigan, in 1992-93.

I have no clue what it actually all means, but it sounds pretty impressive.  And fairly hilarious that it involves both sides of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.