Some thoughts on Ohio State and being No. 1

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The last time Ohio State opened a season as the top-ranked team in college football was in 2006. That should change this September when the defending national champions from Columbus start the new season in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, the only team to hand the Buckeyes a loss last fall. With all of the talent coming back to the squad this season, Urban Meyer should see Ohio State receive its first No. 1 ranking since his arrival that did not come at the end of the postseason.

Ohio State won the national championship last season despite never being the top team in the AP Top 25 at any point during the season. That may sound odd, but it is not quite as rare as you might think.

In 2010, Auburn was close to pulling off the same feat. The Tigers, with Cam Newton at quarterback, worked its way up the polls all season long. The Tigers were given the No. 1 ranking by the Associated Press only after defeating Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn carried that number one ranking to the BCS Championship game against Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks. Oregon had previously been ranked No. 1 by the AP voters, yet lost the top spot to Auburn despite not losing. Florida pulled off a similar feat in 2007, with Meyer’s Gators (and Tim Tebow) grabbing the top spot in the poll after knocking off the previous No. 1, Alabama, in the SEC Championship Game.

But when was the last time a national champion earned the top AP ranking only after winning it all? You only need to look back to the 2011 season.

Alabama entered the 2011 season ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, and it seemed the Crimson Tide were destined to be in that position. Preseason No. 1 Oklahoma had not lost a game but slipped to No. 2 in the polls behind Alabama’s division rival, LSU. LSU took over the top spot in the poll after defeating three top 25 teams in its first four games (including No. 3 Oregon on a neutral field and road games against Mississippi State and West Virginia). Alabama moved down to No. 3 but moved back up to No. 2 to set-up that season’s edition of the Game of the Century against the Tigers, which turned out to be a field goal kicking contest (we know Alabama does not fare well in those). Alabama stayed in the hunt though and managed to sneak into the BCS Championship game to face the SEC champion LSU Tigers, and the rematch went the way of Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. Alabama was given its first No. 1 ranking in the AP poll at the conclusion of the season, the first time they held the top spot in the poll all year.

Ironically enough, this also happened a few years prior and it did so with an Ohio State and Urban Meyer connection.

In 2006, Ohio State entered the year as the preseason No. 1 in the AP poll. Jim Tressel and his Buckeyes proved worthy of the top billing all season long, knocking off two No. 2 teams in the process (Texas and Michigan) and a pair of other top 25 programs (Penn State and Iowa) while Troy Smith went on to win a Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, Meyer had something special brewing in Gainesville, with Florida floating around inside the top 10 all season long, just waiting to strike. After putting away Arkansas in the SEC Championship Game (and No. 2 USC was upset by UCLA), the Gators chomped on Ohio State’s championship dreams in the BCS Championship Game. The victory earned Florida a postseason No. 1 ranking from the AP, the only time all season Ohio State had not held down the top spot.

So what did Florida do the next season? The Gators started the next season ranked No. 9 by the AP voters and finished the season 9-4. But that Florida team was not quite as loaded as Meyer’s Buckeyes should be entering this upcoming season. If Ohio State finishes this upcoming season with just nine wins, it would be a complete shock.

Other Recent Close Calls

Florida State’s 2013 national championship season did not see the Seminoles ranked atop the AP poll until the ACC Championship Game, where newly crowned No. 1 Florida State took over the throne from snake bitten Alabama (Kick-Six!) just before facing Duke in the ACC Championship Game.

In 2012, Alabama held the top spot in the polls for the majority of the season until Johnny Manziel and SEC newcomer Texas A&M stunned the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. Alabama reclaimed the top spot in the polls after demolishing Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game.

Tua Tagovailoa’s injury means little brother won’t be able to redshirt at Alabama this season

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Tua Tagovailoa‘s Injury Heard ‘Round the College Football World last Saturday, as it turns out, won’t just impact Alabama’s push for a sixth consecutive playoff berth.

Prior to Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury, Alabama had planned on redshirting Tagovailoa’s younger brother, Taulia Tagovailoa, who had been serving as the Crimson Tide’s No. 3 quarterback as a true freshman this season.  As the third-string quarterback, the younger Tagovailoa had played in four games in 2019, the threshold of appearances for a player to still maintain the ability to redshirt.

Because of the injury to his brother, however, Nick Saban confirmed Thursday that Tagovailoa will play Saturday against FCS Western Carolina, meaning a redshirt will officially be off the table.

We’re gonna play him this week in this game some kind of way regardless of how the game goes to try to get him some experience, some playing time and hopefully some confidence,” the head coach said on his weekly radio show. “When we had the unfortunate injury last week to Tua, that kind of negated the opportunity to be able to redshirt to Taulia. …

“With him being now the backup quarterback, we thought we needed to play him, because if something happens to this quarterback, Mac Jones, he’s going to be the guy that’s got to go in the game and try to win the game for us.”

A four-star member of the Crimson Tide’s 2019 recruiting class, Tagovailoa was rated as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Alabama (he and his family moved to Tuscaloosa when his brother joined the Tide in 2017).  In limited action this season, Tagovailoa has completed seven-of-nine passes for 72 yards.

Tagovailoa will now serve as the redshirt sophomore Jones’ primary backup moving forward, and those two will compete for the starting job next year if the older Tagovailoa brother does the expected and enters the 2020 NFL Draft.

DB Deon White leaving Cal as a grad transfer

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After a stellar spring game, the stage seemed to be set for Deon White to shine in what would’ve been his last season at Cal.  Instead, the defensive back will finish his collegiate career at an undetermined elsewhere.

Via Twitter earlier this week, White announced that he has decided to leave the Golden Bears and transfer to another school.  As White would be departing with a bachelor’s degree in hand, he would be eligible to play at another FBS school in 2020.

Next season would serve as White’s final year of eligibility as he will take a redshirt for the 2019 campaign.

After beginning his career at a California junior college, White played in a dozen games during his first season with the Bears in 2018.  During this year’s spring game, he totaled a team-high seven tackles and two tackles for loss.

Despite all of that, White had played in just one game this season prior to his decision to enter the portal.

Broken jaw leaves Pitt’s top WR a game-time decision

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If Pitt is to keep its ACC Coastal hopes alive this weekend, they may have to do so (again) without a very productive piece of its offensive puzzle.

Maurice Ffrench suffered a broken jaw in Pitt’s Nov. 2 win over Georgia Tech, then was sidelined for this past week’s win over North Carolina.  With a trip to Blacksburg on tap for this Saturday, Ffrench is official a game-time decision for the matchup with Virginia Tech.

“He’s practiced this week,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said, noting that the senior was in non-contact mode. “His jaw is better than it was before.”

Ffrench had a steel plate inserted into his broken jaw, which will give him a better chance of seeing the field this weekend.

Ffrench currently leads all ACC players in receptions (75) and receptions per game (8.3).  The receptions per game are also third nationally.

Pitt is 4-2 in ACC play entering Week 13, tied with Virginia Tech for second place in the Coastal and a half-game behind first-place Virginia (5-2).  The Panthers have already lost the Cavaliers this year, meaning they would need UVa to lose its last conference game of the regular season (Nov. 29 against rival Tech) in addition to winning each of their last two games (at Tech, home vs. Boston College) in order to earn a spot opposite Clemson in the ACC championship game.

Dismissed by South Carolina, ex-USC DB Jamel Cook enters the portal

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Jamel Cook‘s roller coaster ride of a collegiate career officially includes a stop at the portal; whether it’ll include a third stop at an FBS school remains to be seen.

Late last month, following an arrest on one count of second-degree domestic violence, Cook was dismissed from the South Carolina football program.  Following up on speculation from earlier in the week, an East Coast USC official has confirmed that the defensive back’s name is now listed in the NCAA transfer database.

Cook was originally a four-star member of the Left Coast USC’s 2016 signing class, rated as the No. 17 player at any position in the state of Florida.  He played in three games in two years for the Trojans before transferring to the Gamecocks following the 2017 season.  Because of NCAA transfer rules, the defensive back was forced to sit out the 2018 season.

This year, Cook had appeared in one game prior to his off-field issue.