Ohio State downs Alabama, will meet Oregon for national title

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Cardale Jones, welcome to college football history. Making just his second career start, the man they call 12 Gauge shot No. 4 Ohio State out of a 15-point deficit into a 42-35 Sugar Bowl victory over No. 1 Alabama on Thursday night.

The Buckeyes will meet No. 2 Oregon, 59-20 winners over No. 3 Florida State earlier today, in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship next Monday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Defying the keyboard warriors (myself included) determined to declare the game over at 21-6, Ohio State came roaring back. The Buckeyes closed the first half with two straight touchdowns and opened the second half in the exact same fashion. Jones marched the Buckeyes 75 yards in six plays, connecting with Devin Smith for his customary deep touchdown catch (this time 47 yards) to give Ohio State a 27-21 lead, and then defensive lineman Steve Miller stepped in front of a Blake Sims pass for a 41-yard pick-six to push the lead to 34-21 at the 3:21 mark of the third quarter.

Needing a response badly, Alabama returned to what worked back when it was scoring points in the first quarter: handing the ball to Derrick Henry. The sophomore rumbled for a 52-yard catch-and-run, setting Sims up for a five-yard scoring dash to pull the Tide within six with 1:01 to play in the third quarter.

Alabama then had a golden opportunity to take back the lead with 10 minutes remaining, taking over at the Ohio State 23-yard line after just a 21-yard punt by Cameron Johnston. But Sims was intercepted on the first play of the possession, as Vonn Bell snagged a pass intended for tight end O.J. Howard near the Ohio State goal line.

Ohio State went three-and-out, its third straight, and returned the ball to Alabama in good field position, but the Tide’s third-down issues arose again as Sims was stuffed for a loss of three yards on a third-and-six. J.K. Scott, arguably Alabama’s best player on the night, pinned Ohio State at the five – its fourth straight starting position inside its own 10, but a banged-up Crimson Tide could not stop the Ohio State running game. Playing without two linebackers and with safety Landon Collins playing on an injured shoulder, Alabama surrendered a first down on three straight runs – its only first down allowed sine the middle of the third quarter – and then its longest play of the season, an 85-yard dash to pay dirt by Elliott. Jones hit Thomas for a two-point conversion to give Ohio State a 42-28 lead with 3:24 to play.

Alabama moved 65 yards in just 86 seconds, highlighted by a 52-yard strike from Sims to DeAndrew White and Amari Cooper‘s second touchdown grab of the night, to pull within 42-35 with just under two minutes remaining, but Ohio State recovered the onside kick. The Buckeyes gave the Tide another shot, though, using only 18 seconds after accepting the ball near midfield, which gave Alabama the ball at its own 18 with 1:33 to go.

However, Sims’ Hail Mary was intercepted on the final play of the game, and Ohio State advanced to its first title game since the 2007 season.

Jones completed 18-of-35 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception and rushed 17 times for 43 yards, while Elliott set a Sugar Bowl record with 20 carries for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Ohio State rushed for 281 yards and 6.7 yards per carry against a defense that came in ranking first in FBS in rushing defense and second in yards per carry. Smith caught two passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, moving Ohio State to 21-0 all-time when he catches a touchdown pass.

For Alabama, questions will abound about why Henry didn’t get the ball more. The sophomore rushed 13 times for 95 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes for 54 yards. Sims completed 22-of-36 passes for 237 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, with Cooper hauling in nine receptions for 71 yards and both scores.

Ohio State out-gained Alabama 537-407 and held enormous advantages on the ground, out-rushing the Tide 281-170, and on third down, converting 10-of-18 chances compared to Alabama’s 2-of-13. Ohio State also won the turnover battle, 3-2.

Virginia Tech joins Ball State in losing WR Damon Hazelton to transfer

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When it comes to Damon Hazelton, the Virginia Tech football team has some transfer company.

Back in May of 2017, the Virginia Tech football team announced that Ball State transfer wide receiver Damon Hazelton had been officially added to the roster. Three years and two on-field seasons later, however, Hazelton took to Twitter to announce that he will be transferring from the Hokies as well.

“Want to say thank you to Virginia Tech, coaches and community for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this University athletically and earn my degree,” the receiver wrote. “It has been an unbelievable time here. To all my brothers and teammates, I love each and every one of you and know this year will be nothing short of amazing.”

As he indicated in his post, Hazelton will be leaving as a graduate transfer.

After sitting out the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Hazelton led the Hokies in catches (51), yards (802) and touchdowns (eight) in 2018. This past season, he again led the Hokies in receiving touchdowns (eight), while he was second in yards (527) and tied for second in receptions (31).

Including his time at Ball State, Hazelton has totaled 1,834 yards and 20 touchdowns on 133 catches. The 2020 season will be his final year of eligibility.

After Tulane flirtation, Texas Tech QB Jett Duffey moving on to Central Michigan

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For Jett Duffey, the past few weeks have been interesting. To say the least.

In mid-December, the Texas Tech quarterback entered the NCAA transfer database. Nearly four weeks later, Duffey announced on a Twitter account that has since been deleted that he would continue his collegiate playing career at Tulane.

Three days later, however, Jett Duffey announced on that same since-deleted account that he was withdrawing his commitment to the Green Wave and reopening his recruitment. In a text message to ESPN.com‘s Adam Rittenberg, though, the graduate transfer revealed that he will now transfer to Central Michigan.

From ESPN’s report:

According to a report from Nola.com, Duffey was originally planning to transfer to Tulane but was denied academic admission. A source told ESPN that Duffey would meet the requirements for admission at Central Michigan.

At this point, Jim McElwain‘s CMU football program hasn’t confirmed the transfer’s addition to the roster.

Jett Duffey, a three-star 2016 signee, started 11 games during his time with the Red Raiders. Eight of those starts came over the last eight games of the 2019 regular season.

In 10 games total this past season, Duffey passed for 2,840 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions in completing just over 65 percent of his 367 pass attempts. He threw for 300-plus yards in five straight games and seven times overall in 2019, including a season-high 424 in the early October win over Oklahoma State; his career-high is 444 against Texas in November of 2018.

In 2018, Duffey became the first Red Raider quarterback to lead the team in rushing (339 yards) since Joe Barnes in 1973. This past season, he ran for 212 yards.

Washington State raids Wyoming coaching staff for defensive assistants

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New Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich is putting together his new coaching staff in Pullman, and he is picking from an old Mountain West Conference foe to fill some spots. Jake Dickert, who had been Wyoming’s defensive coordinator for the past season, will join Rolovich and the Cougars to fill the same role. And that’s not all. Dickert will reportedly be bringing two more Wyoming defensive coaches with him; defensive ends coach AJ Cooper and cornerbacks coach John Richardson.

While that is a bit of a shakeup for Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl to deal with at Wyoming, it will help Rolovich put together his first coaching staff at a power conference program. Bringing in some coaches he has a familiarity with makes sense, especially considering how Wyoming has typically played on a defensive level in the last few seasons. If Washington State is going to contend for a Pac-12 title under Rolovich, improving the defensive side of the football will be essential in a division that also features defending Pac-12 champion Oregon and Washington.

Dickert also coached linebackers at Wyoming in addition to serving as defensive coordinator.

Record 111 college football underclassmen have declared early for NFL draft

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The deadline for college football underclassmen to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft has expired, and it looks as though a record number of underclassmen will be hoping to turn pro. Although the NFL will confirm an official number in the coming days, the unofficial count currently sits at 111 underclassmen making themselves eligible for this year’s NFL draft. The 111 underclassmen is a new record for the NFL draft.

According to The Sporting News, there are 111 confirmed underclassmen who have made the decision to forgo their senior seasons for a shot at being drafted in the NFL. One of the last players to make his plan clear was Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who publicly declared for the draft on Saturday. National champion LSU alone has nine players who have declared early for the NFL draft to go along with its graduating seniors.

With 111 confirmed players declaring early, the NFL draft will have at least 100 underclassmen on the board for the third consecutive season. Last year, the NFL reported a total of 103 underclassmen for the 2019 NFL draft. The previous season saw 106 players make themselves eligible for the draft. The 106 players in 2018 was a record number of underclassmen for the NFL draft. A total of 95 underclassmen were reported by the NFL in 2017.

The obvious concern with such a large number of underclassmen declaring for the draft is the growing number of underclassmen who may not be drafted. Last year, 49 players who declared early went undrafted. With only so many draft picks to go around, the more underclassmen that declare makes it more difficult for some players to get drafted. That doesn’t necessarily mean the player made a mistake turning pro, as undrafted players will still find a number of landing spots in undrafted free agency. And for some players, that may end up being the better path than being drafted in the sixth or seventh round because they would then get to choose from potential landing spots.

This year’s total could have been higher, but decisions by players like running backs Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State (HERE), Travis Etienne of Clemson (HERE),  and Najee Harris of Alabama held the record number down, relatively speaking.

If you are looking for something to entertain you while checking in on some spring college football games, the 2020 NFL Draft will take place from April 23-25 in Las Vegas.