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.

Notre Dame and Cal to play for first time since 1967

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Notre Dame and Cal have agreed to a future game to be played in South Bend, Indiana. Cal announced their future road trip on Monday. Notre Dame will host Cal on Sept. 17, 2022.

“We are looking forward to visiting Notre Dame, and I know that many of our fans will, too,” Cal Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton said in a released statement. “Notre Dame Stadium is an iconic venue, and this game provides another opportunity for our alumni to support their Bears on the road. We saw a great turnout for our game at Ole Miss this past season and again at the Redbox Bowl in Santa Clara. I expect we’ll have another large contingent follow us to Notre Dame for this exciting contest.”

This is a one-game agreement rather than a home-and-home arrangement, but it was one Cal was more than happy to make. For Cal, the Golden Bears get a chance to play an opponent other Pac-12 schools have regularly played. Notre Dame plays annual games against Stanford and USC. It is also a good non-conference matchup against a program weighed as a power conference opponent. Although Pac-12 schools are not required to play another FBS opponent in non-conference play (ACC, Big Ten, and SEC scheduling policies ask members to schedule at least one non-conference game each year against another power conference opponent), the addition of the Fighting Irish is a clear upgrade on the schedule for Cal.

Cal will also play a road game at North Texas in 2022. Cal will host UC Davis and UNLV in non-conference matchups as well. Cal’s game with Notre Dame will sit in the middle of two upcoming home-and-home series with TCU (2020-2021) and Auburn (2023-2024).

Notre Dame still has two vacancies in the 2022 schedule as it currently stands. The Irish will also host Ohio State, Marshall, Stanford, Clemson, and Boston College in 2022. Notre Dame has road games scheduled against Navy, USC, North Carolina and Syracuse in 2022.

Notre Dame and Cal have played just five previous times. The most recent meeting in the series was played in 1967. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 4-0.

Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey enters transfer portal, per report

Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey has entered the transfer portal.
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Indiana starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey has entered the NCAA transfer portal, according to a report on Monday afternoon.

As reported by 247 Sports, Ramsey has entered the transfer portal, which means he will begin evaluating his transfer options for the upcoming season. Ramsey will be a graduate transfer. As a graduate transfer, Ramsey will be eligible to play for any other FBS program this fall.

Ramsey may always pull his name form the transfer portal if he decides to stay at Indiana. While that move is not unprecedented in the era of the transfer portal, the situation appears likely to see Ramsey moving on.

Ramsey passed for 2,454 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions last season in 11 games. Ramsey also rushed for 252 yards and seven touchdowns in one of the most successful seasons in Indiana’s history since 1993.

With Ramsey likely to be moving out of Bloomington, Indiana’s offense will now be placed in the hands of Michael Penix Jr. Penix played in seven games for the Hoosiers in 2019. He completed 68.8 percent of his pass attempts for 1,394 yards and 10 touchdowns with four interceptions. He also rushed for 119 yards and two touchdowns on 22 rushing attempts. Penix played in just three games in 2018 to preserve a redshirt season. He has three remaining years of eligibility for Indiana.

USC safety C.J. Pollard enters transfer portal

USC safety C.J. Pollard has entered the NCAA transfer portal.
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USC safety C.J. Pollard announced he decided to enter the transfer portal. The redshirt junior posted on his Twitter account Monday morning he will begin evaluating his transfer options with the intent on being a graduate transfer.

“After considerable thought and prayer, I have decided to enter the Transfer Portal as a GRADUATE,” Pollard posted on his social media account.

As a graduate transfer, Pollard will be eligible to play for any other FBS program in the fall, without having to sit out a season. Pollard will have just one final season of eligibility to use this upcoming season.

Pollard appeared in 12 games for USC in 2019 and recorded 15 tackles, with one tackle for a loss. Pollard was listed second on the USC depth chart at the end of the 2019 season. Pollard was the first backup free safety listed behind starter Isaiah Pola-Mao, a redshirt sophomore set to return and (likely) continue being the starter for the Trojans in 2020.

DeMarco Murray returns to Oklahoma as running backs coach

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In the past, Oklahoma’s running backs coaches might have pointed to DeMarco Murray as an example of how it’s done. Murray redshirted, fought through multiple serious injuries, stuck around for his senior year, set numerous program records and then led a productive NFL career, including leading the league in rushing in 2014.

Now, Oklahoma’s running backs coach will be DeMarco Murray.

Murray was announced Monday as the newest member of Lincoln Riley‘s coaching staff.

“This is a really exciting day, being able to welcome one of our program’s all-time best players back to Norman,” Lincoln Riley said in a statement. “DeMarco had a tremendous playing career both at OU and in the NFL and has a passion for coaching and helping young men grow as players and people. He’s got an incredibly bright coaching future and will be an outstanding mentor to our players. I don’t think there’s anyone better to lead our running backs. Everyone in our program is excited to have DeMarco, his wife Heidi and their children as part of our family.”

A product of powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Murray signed with Oklahoma in 2006 and left school with the program’s record in all-purpose yards (6,718) and touchdowns (65). That means, in all of OU’s storied history of producing prolific offenses, no player carried the ball for more yards or crossed the goal line more than Murray.

“This is very surreal,” Murray said. “Obviously I never thought I’d be back coaching at the place where it all started for me. Having the opportunity to come back and be among great coaches and be with some of the people I grew up with is exciting. I’m thankful for the opportunity Coach Riley is giving me and I’m looking forward to being back home.”

Murray replaces Jay Boulware, who left to become the tight ends coach and special teams coordinator at Texas, his own alma mater.

Murray arrives in Norman with only one year of coaching experience, serving as Kevin Sumlin‘s running backs coach at Arizona last season. After a 7-year NFL career, Murray spent 2018 as an analyst for FOX Sports.