Doesn’t it feel like we have seen this all before? No. 1 Ohio State, just as defending national champion Florida State did a year ago, has continued to skate by with some closer-than-expected results without falling victim to a loss. That trend continued Saturday afternoon in Columbus, with the Buckeyes improving to 6-0 and 2-0 in the Big Ten after pulling away from Maryland (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten), 49-28. The Terrapins tied Ohio State at 21-21 in the third quarter, but Cardale Jones completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jalin Marshall and J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliot each scored on the ground as the Buckeyes finished on a strong note.
This season may not have gone quite to plan for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes continue to win games and shove aside any concerns along the way. Jones completed 20 passes for 279 yards and a pair of touchdowns without an interception. Elliott went over 100 yards and scored twice. Joey Bosa got a chance to do his usual shrug after a big play (Bosa also avoided getting an ejection for targeting after a mandatory instant replay review). Did Ohio State give up some big plays? Yes, they did. The good news is Ohio State makes plays when they need them the most, and ultimately that is what matters most. Ohio State does not need to blow out its opponents by 20 points on a weekly basis as long as it continues to win games. With four playoff spots up for grabs, Ohio State will secure one if it does not lose a game. The margin for error with a loss is an unknown variable, even as the season reaches its midway point.
Halfway through the season, Urban Meyer seems to have enough reason to stick with Jones and bring an end to that question some still have about the offense. Jones is going to be the quarterback, but Barrett will still get some play as well. Ohio State’s success will be determined by Elliott’s abilty to dominate a game.
Next up for Ohio State will be a home game against Penn State. The Nittany Lions took on a banged-up Indiana team in State College this afternoon. The Hoosiers may have taken Ohio State to the limit last week, but Penn State took advantage of a worn out Indiana team in 26-7 victory. Ohio State demolished Ohio State the last time Penn State visited, 63-14 in 2013, but it was the Nittany Lions that gave Ohio State its biggest scare of the season aside from Virginia Tech last year, with the Buckeyes escaping with an overtime victory on the road.
Maryland will head into a bye week, and it remains unconfirmed whether Edsall will be back to coach Maryland’s next game in two weeks. Reports late this week suggested the school will be moving on from Edsall as head coach, which means Maryland could be going with an interim head coach when Maryland takes on Penn State on October 24 in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
Rutgers has officially been in the market for a new head football coach for over a week, and now the school is going to get some help from a search firm.
Rutgers announced a new partnership with Ventura Partners on Monday. The firm will help Rutgers in searching for a new head football coach and may assist in helping to hire other new leaders in the future as Rutgers looks to revitalize their entire athletics department.
“We are excited to be working with Ventura Partners,” Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs said in a released statement on Monday. “They provide a unique range of services, including talent acquisition and development. We will begin working together immediately to ensure excellent leadership for our football program. They will also be working with us throughout the engagement on strengthening our human resources and providing market data and intelligence.”
Rutgers fired Chris Ash as head coach on Sept. 29, which is a costly move thanks to a previous contract extension. The Scarlet Knights have since been dealing with a handful of players redshirting the remainder of the season and an abysmal performance on the road against Indiana in which the team gained just 75 yards of offense while giving up over 500 yards to the Hoosiers.
With the upcoming departure of UConn from the American Athletic Conference, the staus of the AAC Championship Game is officially in question. Without 12 football-playing members, the AAC does not satisfy the NCAA requirement to play an official conference championship game without a waiver. Not wanting to give up the title game just a few short years after implementing it (and accepting the extra revenue generated in the TV contract), AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is hoping to get some positive word on a waiver request sometime soon.
It looks like we may have an update on this situation within the month. The sooner, the better.
UConn is leaving the AAC after this current football season, and Aresco has made it clear the conference still wants to continue playing its conference title game. The current plan is for the AAC to scrap the two-division format entirely and pit the two best teams in a conference championship game at the end of the regular season (an idea that would work well in almost every conference, by the way). The AAC reportedly field a formal waiver to allow for the championship game to live on back in August.
The Big 12 currently only has 10 members and has been granted permission to field a conference championship game on top of the round-robin schedule played during the season. If the Big 12 can have a conference title game without 12 members, then the AAC should be getting confirmation their conference championship game will continue too. But waiting for the official word is needed before the conference can start making plans for 2020 and beyond.
At this point, there remains no sign the conference is looking to add a 12th member for football, which would negate the need for a waiver. But if the waiver is denied, for some reason, then expect the AAC expansion rumors to start flying once again.
The NCAA transfer portal has been busy this Monday. Add Michigan tight end Mustapha Muhammad as one of the latest entrants into the transfer portal. Muhammad made the transfer portal news himself with an announcement on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.
Muhammad is a redshirt freshman. He will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS program, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning 2021. By entering the transfer portal, Muhammad is free to have contact with any other football program looking to recruit him out of Ann Arbor. The Texas native signed with Michigan over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson, among others. Unfortunately, the highly rated recruit hasn’t been able to establish a key role in the Michigan offense early on, even with the Wolverines offense looking for playmakers.
Michigan’s tight end position appears to be settled with Nick Eubanks and Sean McKeon reaching the midway point of the season as Michigan’s leading tight ends when it comes to receiving yards. Eubanks is fifth on the team overall with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown. McKeon has added 96 yards and two touchdowns. Both players are seniors, however, but Michigan also has redshirt freshman Luke Schoonmaker as an option at the tight end position moving forward.
Oregon defensive back Kahlef Hailassie is now officially on the market. Hailassie announced on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon he has officially entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
A sophomore and a member of Oregon’s Class of 2018, Hailassie is now eligible to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him to their program. when he committed to the Ducks out of high school, Hailassie chose Oregon over offers from Colorado and Washington State, among others. Hailassie had previously committed to Colorado during his recruiting process, only to de-commit shortly after an official visit to Boulder.
Hailassie played in just three games this season before being sidelined with an injury. Because he has played in fewer than four games, Hailassie can use the 2019 season as a redshirt year. Hailassie played in all 13 games for Oregon as a true freshman in 2018, recording one tackle as a reserve player and a special teams player. Hailassie will have to sit out the 2020 season if he ends up at another FBS program, which would make him eligible to return to the field with two full years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2021.