Buckeyes survive turnover storm, claim first crown in over a decade

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With four turnovers and the No. 3 quarterback under center facing the No. 2 team in the country? Add up all of those seemingly foreboding numbers, and the only one that matters at the moment to Ohio State is, given the injuries at the most important position on the football field, a wholly-unexpected No. 1.

For the first time in over a decade, and this time with absolutely no late-game controversy, the Buckeyes of Ohio State claimed the first-ever College Football Playoff championship with a resounding and decisive 42-20 win over Oregon.  It was the first title for OSU since the overtime win over Miami in the BCS title game following the 2002 season.  Oregon had been gunning for the first title in the football program’s history.

While the Ducks were gunning, the Buckeyes were busy shooting itself in the foot.

Two first-half fumbles in Oregon territory prevented the Buckeyes from blowing out the Ducks.  Two third-quarter turnovers got UO right back in the game as what was a 21-10 halftime lead was sliced to 21-20 with 6:31 left in the third.  That was as close as the Ducks would get, as it turns out, thanks in large part to the play of Ezekiel Elliott.

On the Buckeyes’ next three drives, the OSU running back scored a trio of rushing touchdowns that gave the eventual champs a 42-20 lead.  Elliott, the game’s most outstanding player, ran for an OSU bowl-record 246 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries.

Over the past three games, which included wins in the Big Ten championship game, the CFP semifinal and championship games, Elliott, just a sophomore, carried the ball 76 times for 696 yards and eight touchdowns.

For head coach Urban Meyer, it was the third national championship of his career, with the first two coming at Florida.  This, though, was arguably the most impressive.

After losing his top quarterback, Braxton Miller, OSU proceeded to inexplicably lose to Virginia Tech at home, a defeat that had most leaving their playoff hopes for dead.  After losing Miller’s replacement, J.T. Barrett, Meyer and his offensive coaching staff, coordinator Tom Herman in particular, were able to mold the No. 3 player at the position, Cardale Jones, into not just a capable replacement but one capable of making game-changing plays.

In this game, Jones showed a little bit of youth as he was responsible for three of the four turnovers.  He also, though, totaled 280 yards of offense (242 passing, 38 rushing) and one touchdown each through the air and on the ground.  Almost certainly, Jones became the first quarterback in college football history to have his first three starts produce postseason wins.

It was also a humbling end to a spectacular career for the reigning Heisman winner.  Marcus Mariota, in what’s expected to be the final game of his collegiate career, was actually fine statistically-speaking as he completed 23-34 passes for 310 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Mariota’s biggest problem, one in which both Wisconsin and Alabama can certainly commiserate?  He and his Duck teammates were simply no match for an OSU team that morphed from a Hokie joke in Week 2 into an absolute buzzsaw at season’s end four months later.

The scariest part for college football in general and the Big Ten specifically?  Meyer himself acknowledged during the season this team was a year away from contending for a title.

A year ahead of schedule, the Buckeyes have all of the look and feel of an SEC team that has given them championship fits over the years.  Now they’ll become exactly what Meyer’s old conference was — the hunted instead of the hunters.

After the way the season began, and given their numerous detractors, I’m sure the whole of Buckeye Nation has one resounding message: bring it on.

Matt Fink delivers early spark for USC off bench, Trojans leading No. 10 Utah at half

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Playing with a third-strong quarterback, USC is looking to make a statement at home against No. 10 Utah. The Pac-12 contest has been heated from the start with some chippiness and personal foul penalties, and a couple of notable injuries. At the halftime break in the Los Angeles Coliseum, USC leads Utah 14-10.

Utah blew a chance to trim the lead a little bit more or take the lead just before halftime, but a botched handoff by Tyler Huntley led to a fumble recovery by USC in the final 20 seconds of the half from inside the USC five-yard line.

On the second play of the game, USC quarterback Kedon Slovis was removed from the game and examined for a possible head injury. Matt Fink entered the game and led USC to two touchdown drives in the first quarter. Already with over 200 passing yards, Fink and the USC offense ran into a bit of a wall for the rest of the half. USC went three-and-out on their first possession after taking a 14-7 lead. A fumble by Stephen Carr after a 16-yard gain gave Utah possession at their 20-yard line. USC then went three-and-out on their next possession, after the Utes chipped away at the deficit with a field goal.

Later in the half, Utah wide receiver Zack Moss left the game and was being checked for a possible shoulder injury.

Penalties also became a major factor in the second quarter with a handful of questionable roughing the passer and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Utah has already committed nine penalties for 75 yards, while USC has done their part to have laundry thrown on the field with six penalties for 70 yards. The officials have certainly earned their paycheck tonight so far.

Air Force and Boise State reach halftime knotted at 10-10

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A matchup of undefeated Mountain West Conference teams has been everything it was supposed to be. Air Force is giving Boise State a good battle on the strength of their running game. The two teams are tied 10-10 at the break.

After a scoreless first quarter, Air Force and Boise State exchanged touchdown drives in the second quarter. The Falcons opened the scoring with Donald Hammond III running eight yards for a score. Boise State answered with Hank Bachmeier tossing a 36-yard pass to CT Thomas for a score.

After forcing Air Force to punt on the ensuing possession, the Broncos took their first lead of the game minutes later. Eric Sachse booted a 40-yard field goal to give the home team a 10-7 lead.

As expected, Air Force has thrived by chewing up yards on the ground, but a pass completion from Hammond III to Ben Peterson late in the second quarter moved the football to the Boise State 13-yard line and a first down. That late drive ended with a field goal by Jake Koehnke to send the teams to the locker rooms all squared up.

We should have a good finish coming up on the blue turf in the second half.

USC QB Kedon Slovis injured on second play of game vs. Utah

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USC quarterback Kedon Slovis started Friday night’s game against Utah, but he may have been knocked out of the game after just two plays. Matt Fink has replaced Slovis, at least for now, after Slovis headed to the USC locker room early in the first quarter. According to a sideline report on the telecast, Slovis was being treated for a possible head injury.

Utah defensive tackle Leki Fatu came charging at Slovis on a 2nd-and-1 play on the second snap of the game. After Fink got the ball away, Fatu finished off a clean play in the college game (FS1 analyst Brock Huard correctly noted the follow-through to take the quarterback to the ground would be flagged in the NFL). Slovis struggled to get back on his feet as he attempted to get off the ground.

Fink, USC’s third-string quarterback behind Slovis and J.T. Daniels (who was injured and out for the year after the season opener), got right to work to finish off the opening drive. Fink missed on his first throw but then connected on his next three attempts, including a 29-yard pass to Tyler Vaughns for the early lead. Utah cruised down the field on the ensuing possession to tie it up.

This post will be updated with more information on Slovis once it becomes available.

Conference championship Saturday now locked in with confirmed kickoff times

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Feel free to update your planner accordingly, because the ACC and Big 12 championship games now have confirmed start times.

The Big 12 Championship Game will kick off Championship Saturday on Dec. 7 with a noon eastern kickoff. The game will be televised on ABC and will share a time slot with the MAC Championship Game (on ESPN or ESPN2).

The ACC Championship Game will once again be played in primetime with a 7:30 p.m. eastern start time scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 on ABC. It will once again go opposite the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX, although the ACC will get a half-hour jump on the Big Ten title game.

With the ACC and Big 12 now on the schedule, here is the updated look at the conference championship game schedule:

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6

  • Pac-12: 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Santa Clara, CA)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7

  • Big 12: 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Arlington, TX)
  • MAC: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN 2 (Detroit, MI)
  • Sun Belt: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN2 (TBD*)
  • Conference USA: 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network (TBD*)
  • American: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (TBD*)
  • Mountain West: 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN (TBD*)
  • SEC: 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS (Atlanta, GA)
  • ACC: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (Charlotte, NC)
  • Big Ten: 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX (Indianapolis, IN)

* = The highest-seeded team in the conference hosts the conference championship game