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.

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.