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.

Rutgers adds commitment from Div. II corner

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Whether on the recruiting trail or transfer portal, Rutgers football is working it on the personnel front under Greg Schiano.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Keenan Reid announced that he will be continuing his collegiate playing career with the Rutgers football team.  The cornerback spent his first three seasons at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.  Because he’s moving up from the Div. II level, Reid would be eligible to play immediately for the Scarlet Knights in 2020.  He also has a redshirt available if the need arises.

The move will serve as a homecoming as Reid went to high school in Somerset, NJ.

Reid actually enrolled in classes at Rutgers before he even received an offer from the football team.  He participated in walk-on tryouts in late January.  That tryout led to a preferred walk-on offer from Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano.

“I wanted to take a chance on myself. I grew up around Rutgers in Franklin Township right down the street,” the 6-0′, 175-pound Reid told 247Sports.com. “I just wanted to take a chance, come back home and be where I wanted to go from the beginning. This is big for me and my family.”

Reid was a three-year starter for the Lions.  He finished with a pair of interceptions.  He also blocked six kicks during his time at the lower-level school.

Rutgers football hasn’t been shy in dipping into the transfer portal under its first-year coach.  In early February, the program confirmed the addition of four transfers from Power Five programs.  Three of those came from the Big Ten.  Late last month, an FCS offensive lineman was added to the roster as well.

Michigan State sees one punter leave team, another pull his name from transfer portal

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It was a busy day personnel-wise on the punting front for the Michigan State football program.

Last year, Bryce Baringer placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  This week, it was reported that Baringer had pulled his name out of the portal, an indication that the punter has decided to remain as part of the Michigan State football team.

Conversely, Michigan State confirmed that Jack Bouwmeester is no longer part of the Spartans football team.  According to mlive.com, Bouwmeester has returned to his native Australia.  No reason was given for the development.  It’s unclear at this point whether the move is permanent.

Baringer began his collegiate career at Illinois.  After taking a redshirt as a true freshman in 2017, Baringer transferred to Michigan State prior to the start of the 2018 season.  Because of injuries that year to the two punters ahead of him on the depth chart, Baringer played in four games.  In that action, he averaged 32.4 yards on 15 punts.  Four of those punts landed inside the 20-yard line.

Mlive.com wrote that “Bouwmeester, who Michigan State found through ProKick Australia, was the program’s first incoming punter recruit to land a scholarship since [Jake] Hartbarger.” Bouwmeester was a three-star 2019 signee, rated as the No. 9 punter in the country.  He took a redshirt as a true freshman after not playing in any games.

Hartbarger served as the primary punter for Michigan State last season.  As a sixth-year senior, Hartbarger’s eligibility has expired.

Baringer is one of three punters currently on the Michigan State roster.  The others are redshirt junior walk-on Tyler Hunt and redshirt freshman walk-on Evan Morris.  Hunt was the second of the two punters injured during that 2018 season.  Hunt, who replaced the injured Hartbarger that year, started five games, punting 36 times for an average of 40.1 yards per.

College Football in Coronavirus Quarantine: On this day in CFT history

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The sports world, including college football, has essentially screeched to a halt as countries around the world battle the coronavirus pandemic. As such, there’s a dearth of college football news as spring practices have all but been canceled at every level of the sport. And there’s even some concern that the health issue could have an impact on the 2020 college football campaign.

In that vein, we thought it might be fun to go back through the CollegeFootballTalk archives and take a peek at what transpired in the sport on this date.

So, without further ado — ok, one further ado — here’s what happened in college football on April 1, by way of our team of CFT writers both past and present.

(P.S.: If any of our readers have ideas on posts they’d like to read during this hiatus, leave your suggestions in the comments section.  Mailbag, maybe?)

2018

THE HEADLINE: Mark Emmert: We can’t pay football and basketball players because it would kill non-revenue sports
THE SYNOPSIS: Two years later, players are on the verge of being allowed to earn money off of their names, images and likenesses… and saving schools the “pain” of having to pay them.

2017

THE HEADLINE: Alabama fans kick Deshaun Watson out of Tuscaloosa bar
THE SYNOPSIS: This offseason story developed after Watson engineered a last-second Clemson win in the College Football Playoff title game win over Alabama.  Initially, it was reported that former Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson was part of the crowd of Crimson Neanderthals hassling Watson.  Instead, it turned out that Anderson was merely trying to diffuse the situation.

2016

THE HEADLINE: Three Iowa State players rescue woman from drowning on spring break trip
THE SYNOPSIS: Anthony LazardJack SpreenJoe Doran were true heroes on this day three years ago.  They jumped in and saved the life of a 22-year-old woman who drove her car into Laguna Madre Bay as the trio watched and then sprung into action. “That car completely sank in less than a minute and if not for them jumping into the water and pulling the driver out, she would most certainly have drowned,” officer Michael Schiltz said at the time.

THE HEADLINE: Art Briles named in federal sexual assault lawsuit against Baylor
THE SYNOPSIS: Even a half-decade later, the stench surrounding Briles is still strong.  Despite said stench, Briles is still serving as a high school head coach. For a program with its own off-field issues.

2014

THE HEADLINE: Texas AD: ‘I don’t see us focusing on’ renewing A&M rivalry
THE SYNOPSIS: Texas A&M left for the SEC in 2012.  Since then, at various points, each side has claimed to want a renewal of the in-state rivalry.  Of late, though? “[F]rom our standpoint it’s really not a big deal to us, and you know, we’ve kind of moved on,” A&M athletic director Ross Bjork said in November of last year.

2012

THE HEADLINE: Female kicker falls short in Hokies tryout
THE SYNOPSIS: Lauren Luttrell was part of a 10-person kicking tryout at Virginia Tech.  She failed, though, to advance to the final three.

2011

THE HEADLINE: That’ll Bruin your day: projected OL starter fractures ankle
THE SYNOPSIS: I just liked the punny UCLA headline.  Your mileage may vary.  A lot.

2010

THE HEADLINE: Kelly on Irish: ‘We stink right now’
THE SYNOPSIS: A little reverse psychology by Brian Kelly? Notre Dame went on to an 8-5 record in Kelly’s first season. Two years later, they won a school-record 12 games en route to a national championship game appearance versus Alabama.

2009

THE HEADLINE: MEYER HAS NO PROBLEM WITH CONTROVERSIAL LINEMAN*
THE SYNOPSIS: Urban Meyer.  A player with an off-field issue.  Lather.  Rinse. Repeat.

(*Yes, back in the day, we used to scream out our headlines at our readers in all-caps. The move to NBC a couple of months later mercifully ended that practice.)

Anonymous FBS athletic director: ‘If there’s no season, we will be f*****’

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If you didn’t realize how important college football is to an athletic department’s bottom line, this should highlight it.

In the midst of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, some connected to the game of college football are decidedly pessimistic that the upcoming season will be played. Others are expressing cautious optimism. For now, at least.

Brett McMurphy of The Stadium conducted a survey of 130 athletic directors with FBS programs, with 112 of them participating. According to McMurphy, the ADs “were asked to rank their optimism on the upcoming season being played from ‘1’ (will not be played) to ’10’ (definitely will be played).”

Not a single AD gave less than a “5” in response, meaning everyone who responded, at least at this time, feels there’s at least a 50-50 chance the season will go off as planned. A slight majority of respondents (51%) assigned either the numbers seven or eight in McMurphy’s survey. One-quarter of them were decidedly optimistic with either a nine or 10 as a response. Most of that optimism was on the part of Group of Five programs that, already financially reeling from the distilled NCAA’s revenue distribution last month, desperately need a college football season to be played.

If the college football season is to start on time — the first games are scheduled for Aug. 29 — what would be the absolute latest teams could start reconvening and prepping for the 2020 campaign? The answer you get depends on the individual you ask. Some would say early June at the absolute latest. Others have said the middle of July.

So, what if the season is canceled? Completely?

“If there’s no season, we will be f*****,” an anonymous AD told McMurphy.

A tweet from Ross Dellenger of SI.com very plainly illustrates how reliant athletic departments are on revenue from college football.

Suffice to say, if the 2020 college football season is completely wiped out, non-revenue sports will be cut. Lots of them will be shuttered, more than likely.

The good news, such as it is, is that the powers-that-be in the sport will go to great lengths to save the 2020 college football season. In fact, one report earlier today suggested that the season could start as late as January of next year. How that would work with players who are eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft would have to be worked out, as would myriad other issues.

While it’s way too early to form a concrete opinion, there’s little doubt that all connected to the sport will exhaust every option to save the 2020 college football season. And, if the season is canceled? It’ll mean we all have a helluva lot more to worry about than sports.