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Auburn survives Kentucky comeback, hangs on for much-needed win

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Through the first half of 2015, Auburn’s season has been a disappointment.  Thursday night, they avoided it toppling over into the embarrassing.

Up 23-10 at halftime, AU watched as Kentucky mounted a semi-furious second-half rally, with the Tigers hanging on for a 30-27 win.  The win was the Tigers’ first in SEC play against two losses, and pushed them to 4-2 overall with six games remaining.

Conversely, the loss was seriously damaging to any hopes Kentucky had held to keep pace with Florida in the SEC East.  Not only did UK fall to 2-2 and into a tie with Georgia in the division, they now, in reality, are two-and-a-half games behind 4-0 UF as the Gators already beat the Wildcats earlier in the season.

Arguably the key sequence that could very well have changed the narrative in the above paragraph came a handful of minutes into the fourth quarter.

A Peyton Barber run from the UK 48-yard line ended with what was ruled a fumble that was recovered by the Wildcats with 10:18 remaining.  Upon further review, however, Barber was ruled down and the ball reverted back to the Tigers.  Two plays later, Sean White hit Ricardo Louis for 34 yards down to the UK 12; three plays later, Barber ran in from three yards out to push the lead to 30-20 with 7:56 remaining.

Roughly four minutes after that, a Mike Horton one-yard touchdown run sliced the lead to 30-27 4:06 left.  The Wildcats got the ball back at their own 15 with 2:12 remaining and one last chance, and managed to move as far as the Tigers’ 44-yard line before Patrick Towles, forced out of the pocket, was stopped on a fourth-down run that gave the ball back to AU on downs with just 25 ticks left on the clock.

All six touchdowns scored in the game, three by each team, came on the ground.  AU’s Peyton Barber and UK’s Boom Williams accounted for two apiece.

Towles passed for 359 yards in a losing effort.  It was the junior’s second straight 300-yard game and fifth of his career; the Wildcats’ record in those games dropped to 2-3.

The loss was Kentucky’s ninth straight at home to Auburn.  The Wildcats have not beaten the Tigers in Commonwealth Stadium since 1966.

Conference championship Saturday now locked in with confirmed kickoff times

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Feel free to update your planner accordingly, because the ACC and Big 12 championship games now have confirmed start times.

The Big 12 Championship Game will kick off Championship Saturday on Dec. 7 with a noon eastern kickoff. The game will be televised on ABC and will share a time slot with the MAC Championship Game (on ESPN or ESPN2).

The ACC Championship Game will once again be played in primetime with a 7:30 p.m. eastern start time scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 7 on ABC. It will once again go opposite the Big Ten Championship Game on FOX, although the ACC will get a half-hour jump on the Big Ten title game.

With the ACC and Big 12 now on the schedule, here is the updated look at the conference championship game schedule:

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6

  • Pac-12: 8:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Santa Clara, CA)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7

  • Big 12: 12:00 p.m. ET, ABC (Arlington, TX)
  • MAC: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN 2 (Detroit, MI)
  • Sun Belt: 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN or ESPN2 (TBD*)
  • Conference USA: 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network (TBD*)
  • American: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC (TBD*)
  • Mountain West: 4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN (TBD*)
  • SEC: 4:00 p.m. ET, CBS (Atlanta, GA)
  • ACC: 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC (Charlotte, NC)
  • Big Ten: 8:00 p.m. ET, FOX (Indianapolis, IN)

* = The highest-seeded team in the conference hosts the conference championship game

Mark Dantonio responds to accusation made by former staffer

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A day after an alarming story accused Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio of recruiting a player he was warned could be a potential problem, Dantonio has responded alongside his lawyer. Dantonio defended himself against the claims of former assistant Curtis Blackwell and re-directed to previous comments Dantonio made regarding the player in question.

“The fact that Mr. Blackwell’s contract was not renewed has nothing to do with Auston Robertson,” Dantonio said in a statement on Friday. “Two years ago, I spoke at length about Auston Robertson when he was dismissed from the team in 2017. Rather than engage in a public argument with a former staffer, I refer you to those previous statements. Further, there have been multiple investigations into the program’s handling of sexual assaults, including Jones Day in 2017 and the NCAA in 2018, and they concluded that the program and myself committed no violations.”

Blackwell, a former Michigan State recruiting director, claimed he and multiple coaches asked Dantonio not to continue recruiting Robertson, who was guilty of misdemeanor battery in high school and later was arrested and charged with assault to his girlfriend just after his freshman season in East Lansing. Robertson was later removed from the program.

Dantonio concluded his statement by saying he will have no further comment due to ongoing litigation.

“Mr. Blackwell’s lawsuit concerns his allegations that his contract was not renewed because he refused to co-operate with investigations being conducted by the MSUPD and a law firm hired to evaluate the MSU football program’s compliance with sexual assault reporting policies,” Dantonio’s lawyer, Tom Kienbaum, said in a separate statement. “The lawsuit has nothing to do with the recruitment or actions of any student athletes, including Auston Robertson.”

Kentucky LB Kash Daniel will play after video of alleged intent-to-injure surfaced

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After video surfaced seemingly suggesting Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel tried to hurt a Florida football player last weekend, head coach Mark Stoops confirmed Daniel will be on the field again this weekend against Mississippi State. What has not been confirmed, however, is whether or not Daniel will start the game for the Wildcats.

Video footage from last weekend’s victory over the Gators appeared to show Daniel attempting to twist the ankle of Florida quarterback Kyle Trask at the bottom of a pile at the end of the play. Trask denied any intent to injure to Trask but did admit he gets caught up in some smack talk on the field, which of course is perfectly normal in sports.

Stoops said he has discussed the alleged incident with Daniel and the SEC office. Whatever came out of those discussions will remain behind closed doors, because Stoops has decided to keep that all in-house. So if Daniel is not on the field to start the game for Kentucky’s defense, this may not be a coincidence. However, regardless of what happens, Daniel will be playing against Mississippi State.

New Mexico State locks in bowl agreement with New Mexico Bowl

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New Mexico State may not have a rich bowl history, but the independent college football program has worked out an arrangement to secure a spot in a postseason bowl game in the next few years.

New Mexico State has reached an agreement with ESPN Events to reserve a spot in the New Mexico Bowl from 2020 through 2025, as long as the Aggies meet the NCAA bowl-minimum win total.

“New Mexico State University and our football program are excited to enter into an agreement with the New Mexico Bowl from 2020 through 2025,” New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said in a released statement. “The proximity of the game from our campus as well as Albuquerque and the surrounding areas having the largest population of NM State alumni in the country outside of Doña Ana County is a perfect opportunity for our football program and Aggie Nation.”

New Mexico State would face a team from either the Mountain West Conference or Conference USA. In addition, New Mexico State can be chosen to play in any other bowl game not owned by ESPN if an opportunity is available to them.

New Mexico State is an independent program, which makes them free to work out their own bowl deals. But because most bowl games have deals in place with conferences, there are typically few bowl spots to go around for independent programs (unless you happen to be Notre Dame).

The Aggies played in a bowl game at the end of the 2017 season, which was the first bowl game for the program since 1960.