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.

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.

Oklahoma DL Jalen Redmond’s status unclear for Big 12 title game

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Ahead of Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, the status of a key rotational piece of one of the participant’s defensive line is decidedly up in the air.

Jalen Redmond didn’t travel with the rest of his No. 6 Oklahoma teammates to last Saturday’s Bedlam win over No. 25 Oklahoma State because of an unspecified issue.  With a date against Baylor on tap for Saturday, it remains unclear whether the redshirt freshman defensive lineman will be available for the conference title game.

“He has progressed this week,” Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said when asked about Redmond’s availability. “We don’t have a complete decision right now, but he’s certainly better at this point than he was last week.”

In July of last year, Riley confirmed that, because of blood clots, Redmond would not play at all in 2018. However, the then-true freshman defied the initial medical odds and ultimately returned in October to play in three games before a recurrence of the clots in mid-November sidelined Redmond for the remainder of the year.

This season, Redmond had played in the first 11 games, starting two of those contests, before missing the Week 14 win.  Redmond is currently third on the Sooners in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with four.