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.

Syracuse AD says 2019 football season has been frustrating but Orange on the right trajectory

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Syracuse football was one of the remarkable turnaround stories during the 2018 season and the Orange have become one of the more remarkable turnaround stories during the 2019 season… only in the opposite direction many assumed coming into the year.

Despite the program backsliding from their first 10 win season in nearly two decades to their current mark of 3-6 though, athletic director John Wildhack told a local radio station that he’s firmly behind the team and head coach Dino Babers no matter how difficult things have been on the field this year.

“This year is frustrating, no question,” Wildhack said, according to Syracuse.com. “I think this program is in a much better place than it was three or four years ago. I give Coach Babers a lot of credit. We’ll continue to work to analyze what we need to do to make the program better, to make it successful. I’m confident we’ll do that.

“I honestly believe, and I deeply believe, that we are on the right trajectory to where we can be consistently good every year. That’s what we want.”

The Orange being consistently good every year is obviously a great goal to have but something the school has struggled to do for many years on the gridiron. There was hope that Babers was the guy to help raise the floor, so to speak, of the program when hired and he put together a remarkable 2018 season that was a great indication of that — leading to a lucrative contract extension last December designed to keep bigger programs from plucking their head coach.

But the followup has not gone as well with the team struggling to protect their quarterback and the defense give up so many points that they fired coordinator Brian Ward, a long time assistant under the head coach, after a loss to Boston College.

Syracuse football is 21-25 overall under Babers but there is hope that this is simply a bump in the road with the bulk of the two-deep at the moment made up of underclassmen and only a handful of seniors in the starting lineup. The Orange will try to keep their bowl possibilities alive on Saturday when they play at Duke in ACC action.

Contradicting Mark Dantonio, Michigan State says QB Brian Lewerke was checked for concussion vs. Illinois

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It’s not often that a school comes out firing to directly contradict their head coach on a subject but we’ve long since passed normal at Michigan State this season.

In the wake of the team’s dreadful collapse against Illinois last week, starting QB Brian Lewerke took a knee to the head from a defender and then subsequently was planted on the turf while trying to make a tackle the next play — after he threw an interception that was eventually turned into a momentum-swinging pick-six. The signal-caller told reporters after the game that he got his bell rung but he still stayed in the game.

While that sequence should have prompted Lewerke to go through the standard concussion protocol, head coach Mark Dantonio said at his Tuesday press conference that neither trainers nor coaches thought about pulling him from the game to do that because the player himself said he was fine despite the hits.

“Just I asked him and he said he’s good, and he motioned that to our trainers, as well, so he just went on with it,” Dantonio said.

That, however, is not exactly what happened and the general disregard seemingly shown over putting Lewerke through proper protocols prompted the university to issue a statement later on Tuesday clarifying the situation.

“The safety of student-athletes at Michigan State University is our No. 1 priority. Decisions on whether a player returns to competition after potentially suffering an injury are made by our medical staff, which does not report to our coaching staff or through the Athletics Department,” Michigan State health care chief medical officer and interim director of athletic medicine Dr. Anthony M. Avellino said in a statement released by the school. “Upon returning to the sideline late in the fourth quarter with under five minutes remaining in the game, Brian Lewerke was given a symptom assessment by our medical staff. After not showing signs of a concussion, he was cleared to play.

“As a precautionary measure, Brian was given further testing the following day, and was once again determined not to have a concussion.”

It’s good to know that the signal-caller didn’t get a concussion on the sequence in question but it was still a little bizarre to hear the head coach of the team imply that standard procedures were skipped simply because Lewerke said he was good. Almost all college football programs have a spotter in the press box to keep an eye on hits that may lead to players going through the protocol in addition to trainers on the sidelines.

It sounds like the Spartans did follow through with doing everything they should have but it does appear as though the head coach was the last to find out about it. It’s understandable that Dantonio might have gotten caught up in the heat of the moment of an epic collapse against the Illini but to not have his story straight three days later is a bit concerning.

At least the head coach knows his job isn’t in jeopardy from the incident (or others) because more than a few others in his position would not get quite the kind of pass that Dantonio gets on such a serious subject in college football nowadays.

Nebraska AD calls for patience amid Cornhuskers struggles, believes Scott Frost needs 3-4 recruiting classes to get things turned around

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When you try to come up with the most disappointing teams in the country for the 2019 season, one program that is bound to find its way onto the list is undoubtedly Nebraska. The Cornhuskers started the year as a trendy pick to win the Big Ten West and were ranked in the top 25 preseason as a result.

Reality has turned into a different animal entirely however, as the team has struggled in nearly every game on the docket and currently need to win two of their last three just to make a bowl game after being upset by Purdue two weeks ago to fall to 4-5. Despite the issues in nearly every phase, NU athletic director Bill Moos is confident that the ship will eventually get righted and preached that things might take a bit longer than the fan base would like.

“We need to be patient and let these programs take their course, especially the most visible ones, because that’s how we’re being judged around the country,” Moos said on KLIN’s Sports Nightly, according to the Omaha World-Herald. “I’m here to tell you, I didn’t come in to Nebraska to finish in 8th and 9th place. We’ve got a project here, we got the right people in the right place, we got good leadership on campus, we have a lot of things going in our favor. And we need to be patient.”

Moos gave a little insight as to just how long that patience might take in also saying that he believes that head coach Scott Frost could need as many as “three to four more” recruiting classes to get the program turned around and back to where it wants to be.

That is… not exactly what the message was when the native son was brought back to Lincoln to restore his alma mater to glory nor was it what Frost himself was saying in the lead up to the 2019 season. The team’s on field play though, suggests they’re behind schedule in this rebuild and so maybe that estimate isn’t too far off — especially with fellow division foes like Minnesota rapidly turning into contenders.

Supporters of the Cornhuskers might not like to hear it but perhaps patience is indeed something that needs to be practiced as Big Red tries to get back in the black in 2019 and beyond.

LSU’s Joe Brady, Ohio State’s Jeff Hafley among nominees for Boyles Award as CFB’s top assistant coach

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The college football awards process is a pretty simple four phase process as you go from watch list season to the actual season to the semifinalist lists to the actual awards being announced in early December. As we approach Week 12 of the 2019 campaign, we’re firmly into the third phase of announcing a narrowing of the field and limiting who can actually take some hardware home after the regular season is finished.

To that end, The Frank & Barbara Broyles Foundation announced on Wednesday the 41-person strong list of nominees for the Broyles Award, which goes to college football’s top assistant coach. As you would expect, there are quite a few big names under consideration as the assistants in question have either helped lead remarkable turnarounds with their specific side of the ball or have helped elevate their team into conference and/or the national title conversation.

Here’s the full list of 41 names and their titles:

ALABAMA – Steve Sarkisian, Offensive Coordinator/QB

APPALACHIAN STATE – Ted Roof, Defensive Coordinator

ARKANSAS STATE – Keith Heckendorf, Offensive coordinator/QB

AUBURN – Kevin Steele, Defensive Coordinator

BALL STATE – Joey Lynch, Offensive Coordinator/QB

BAYLOR – Phil Snow, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties

BYU – Aaron Roderick, Passing Game Coordinator/QB

CALIFORNIA – Tim DeRuyter, Defensive Coordinator

CENTRAL MICHIGAN – Charlie Frye, Offensive Coordinator/QB

CINCINNATI – Marcus Freeman, Defensive Coordinator

CLEMSON – Jeff Scott, Co-Offensive Coordinator/WR

FLORIDA – Billy Gonzalez, Wide Receivers

GEORGIA – Dan Lanning, Defensive Coordinator/Outside LBs

GEORGIA STATE – Brad Glenn, Offensive Coordinator

INDIANA – Kalen DeBoer, Offensive Coordinator/QB

IOWA – Phil Parker, Defensive Coordinator/DB

IOWA STATE – Tom Manning, Offensive Coordinator/Run Game Coordinator

LOUISVILLE – Dwayne Ledfors, Offensive Line

LOUISIANA – Ron Roberts, Defensive Coordinator

LSU – Joe Brady, Passing Game Coordinator/WR

MEMPHIS – Pete Lembo, Special Teams Coordinator

MICHIGAN – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator

MINNESOTA – Kirk Ciarrocca, Offensive Coordinator/QB

MISSOURI – Ryan Walters, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties

NAVY – Brian Newberry, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties

OHIO STATE – Jeff Hafley, Co-Defensive Coordinator/Secondary

OKLAHOMA – Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator/ Safeties

OLE MISS – Mike MacIntyre, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties

OREGON – Andy Avalos, Defensive Coordinator

OREGON STATE – Brian Lindgren, Offensive Coordinator/QB

PENN STATE – Brent Pry, Defensive Coordinator/LB

PITTSBURGH – Randy Bates, Defensive Coordinator

SAN JOSÉ STATE – Ryan Gunderson, Quarterbacks/Passing Game Coordinator

SMU – Rhett Lashlee, Offensive Coordinator/QB

TROY – Ryan Pugh, Offensive Coordinator/OL

TULANE – Will Hall, Offensive Coordinator/

UAB – David Reeves, Defensive Coordinator

UCF – Randy Shannon, Defensive Coordinator

UTAH – Morgan Scalley, Defensive Coordinator/Safeties

WESTERN KENTUCKY – Clayton White, Defensive Coordinator/CB

WISCONSIN – Jim Leonhard, Defensive Coordinator

Obviously there’s a ton of well deserving candidates but it might be hard to top LSU’s Brady for the award given how big of a jump the Tigers’ offense has made with his arrival in Baton Rouge. Ohio State’s Hafley and Oklahoma’s Grinch also have made huge strides with their respective teams but even at the Group of Five level there’s a ton of guys who have been terrific this season.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 10th and the award is usually a good sign for whoever takes home the trophy becoming a head coach in the near future. Former Alabama OC Mike Locksley won the Broyles Award last year while past winners have included Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and current Texas coach Tom Herman when he was at Ohio State.