Newcomers lead Texas A&M past No. 15 Arizona State

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A year ago, Texas A&M could not have beaten No. 15 Arizona State the way it did on Saturday. Well, the Aggies probably couldn’t have beaten Arizona State at all in 2014, but definitely not this way. Because, a year ago, Texas A&M did not have John Chavis and it did not have Christian Kirk.

The Aggies used a fast, aggressive defense and the multidimensional Kirk to upend the Sun Devils, 38-17, in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Chavis, the high-priced defensive coordinator robbed away from LSU last December, guided a defense that ranked 97th nationally in yards per play and 111th in rushing into a strength – at least for one night. Behind All-America candidate Myles Garrett, Texas A&M forced eight sacks and two turnovers, limiting the Sun Devils to just 2.2 yards per carry and fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Bercovici to 25-of-40 passing for just 199 yards. Arizona State mounted only one sustained touchdown drive on the night – its first score came after a Kyle Allen fumble deep in Aggie territory – an eight play, 75-yard march that pulled the Devils to within 17-14 with 2:37 to go in the third quarter.

While the A&M defense did its job, freshman Christian Kirk carried the Aggies’ offense and special teams. A former five-star out of the Phoenix area, Kirk returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to put Texas A&M up 14-0 with 12:51 in the second quarter, then put the game away for good with a 66-yard grab-and-weave with 3:45 to go in the game, giving the Aggies a 31-17 lead. After Texas A&M forced a turnover on downs deep in Arizona State territory on the ensuing possession, Tra Carson added a 10-yard insurance score with 1:38 remaining.

The sophomore Allen garnered the start for the Aggies and posted decent numbers – 15-of-26 passing for 198 yards and two touchdowns (he hit Carson for a 9-yard touchdown to open the scoring in the first quarter) and added a 12-yard touchdown run to put A&M up 24-14 – but committed two turnovers and was victimized by a swarming Arizona State defense. Head coach Kevin Sumlin turned to true freshman Kyler Murray for much of the night and he answered by dancing for 69 yards on six carries to go with 4-of-9 passing for 49 yards and an interception.

Arizona State successfully bottled up the Texas A&M running game for much of the evening – Carson gained 96 yards on 29 carries, and will have 29 lumps to show for it tomorrow morning – and Murray’s speed and elusiveness proved a successful antidote.

As dominant as the Arizona State front was, though, Texas A&M was even more so, limiting the Sun Devils to 92 yards on 41 carries. Overall, Texas A&M outgained Arizona State 425-291 and held the Sun Devils to 5-of-19 on third downs.

Texas A&M entered the season a dark horse to contend in the SEC West and beyond, and rewarded that faith Saturday night. And considering so many of tonight’s key pieces – Chavis, Murray, Kirk – are still feeling themselves out, here’s the scariest thought of the night: Texas A&M will probably get better from here.

Illinois dismisses suspended DT Lere Oladipo

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The Champaign soap opera that is Lere Oladipo has taken yet another twist.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Illinois announced that Oladipo has been dismissed from the Fighting Illini football program for violating unspecified team rules.  In mid-September of this year, the redshirt sophomore defensive tackle was indefinitely suspended from the team, a suspension that had remained in place right up until his dismissal.

In late October of last year, Oladipo was arrested in connection to a domestic incident and charged with one count of domestic battery/bodily harm and two counts of domestic battery/physical contact.  As Oladipo, who pleaded not guilty to all counts, was set to go trial, the three charges he was facing were dismissed.  The state’s attorney’s office dropped the charges after the alleged victim and a witness called the police and changed their stories.

Suspended after the initial arrest, Oladipo was reinstated and participated in both spring practice and summer camp earlier this year.  He played in the first two games this season before his second suspension; it’s unclear if the second issue is/was related to the first.

Oladipo was a three-star 2017 signee.  He played in four games as a redshirt freshman before the off-field issues sidelined him.

QB Austin Kirksey to transfer from Nevada, walk-on at Georgia

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It appears Georgia’s quarterback room will have a new addition, courtesy of a Group of Five program.

According to Nevada Sports Net‘s Chris Murray, Austin Kirksey has decided to leave the Nevada football team.  The reason given for the true freshman’s departure was a personal family issue.

As for the quarterback’s future, Murray reports that the Marietta, Ga., native plans to walk-on at Georgia after finishing out the semester at Nevada.

“He’s going to move back to Georgia to be close to his family,” head coach Jay Norvell said. “Really sad to see him go. What a great kid. He’s like a straight-A student, an awesome young man and very close to his family. A great family. We’re sad to see him go, but I certainly understand him wanting to be closer to his family.”

A three-star member of the Wolf Pack’s 2019 recruiting class, Kirksey was rated as the No. 59 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 170 player at any position in the state of Georgia.  Only three players in Norvell’s class this past cycle were rated higher than Kirksey.

Kirksey hadn’t seen the field this season prior to his decision to leave the program.

Frank Solich becomes MAC’s winningest coach in Ohio’s rout of Bowling Green

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Amidst negotiations on yet another contract extension, Frank Solich has added yet another notch to his résumé.

Thanks in part to Nathan Rourke‘s four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), Ohio took Bowling Green State to the woodshed in a 66-24 road rout Tuesday night.  The Bobcats averaged 8.6 yards per carry in rushing for 342 yards, led by O’Shaan Allison‘s career-high 175 yards on the ground.  Allison also ran for three touchdowns after coming into the game with just two in his career.

The win is the 111th for Solich during his time at Athens, making him the all-time winningest head coach in MAC history.  The 75-year-old Solich surpassed Herb Deromedi, who won 110 games at Central Michigan from 1978-93.

“It seemed like it stalled itself out a little bit for a while, but we’re interested in winning football games, and this record goes with it,” Solich, in the midst of his 15th season with the football program, said in quotes distributed by the school. “I feel really good about it, but a lot of people were involved in this. A lot of great players over the years that have come through Ohio that have set the tradition to where we were able to recruit well and win football games.

“There have been tremendous athletes and tremendous coaches. If you have that combination, you’re going to have a few wins. A lot of people have been involved in winning some football games, so I appreciate everything that people have been done during my time at Ohio. I will say this, it is as good as I could ever hope for in a coaching business in terms of those 15 years and how it all worked.”

With the win, Ohio also moved to 5-6 and within one more win of becoming bowl-eligible.  With a win over winless Akron next Tuesday, Ohio would qualify for the postseason for the fifth straight season and 11th time overall under Solich.

Top seven remains the same in latest CFP rankings

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The third edition of the 2019 College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday, and the top seven teams remained the same from last week’s rankings. This means, as expected, Alabama remained No. 5 following the devastating loss of Tua Tagovailoa.

Minnesota remained in striking distance following their loss to Iowa (now at No. 17) at No. 10, with No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State (potentially) still on their schedule. Oklahoma and Penn State moved one spot apiece, keeping the Top 10 stagnant.

Auburn fell three spots to No. 15, one spot behind No. 14 Baylor, who will spend the week wondering how high they would’ve climbed if the rankings were taken at halftime on Saturday night.

Memphis swapped spots with Cincinnati as the highest-rated Group of 5 team at No. 18; the Tigers and Bearcats SMU rejoined the rankings after falling out last week. They were joined by Iowa State at No. 22, who replaced then-No. 19 Texas, and USC at No. 23.

The full rankings:

1. LSU
2. Ohio State
3. Clemson
4. Georgia
5. Alabama
6. Oregon
7. Utah
8. Penn State
9. Oklahoma
10. Minnesota
11. Florida
12. Wisconsin
13. Michigan
14. Baylor
15. Auburn
16. Notre Dame
17. Iowa
18. Memphis
19. Cincinnati
20. Boise State
21. Oklahoma State
22. Iowa State
23. USC
24. Appalachian State
25. SMU