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No. 6 Baylor shows signs of mortality in win at K-State

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So, it’s come to this. Baylor, ranked sixth in the country, winners of all eight games this season and 34 of their last 38, wins 31-24 at Kansas State and we’re left picking nits. But such is life when you play to win games and impress the 12 oracles on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

First, the good. Jarrett Stidham made his first career start in relief of the injured Seth Russell and looked, well, nothing like a true freshman making his first career start in a road conference game. The true freshman completed 23-of-33 passes for 419 yards (10th most in Baylor history) and three touchdowns (plus another rushing score) with no turnovers. He smartly found certain All-American and Belitnikoff finalist Corey Coleman early and often, including a 36-yard connection on the first play from scrimmage, setting the stage for a 7-0 Baylor lead just 1:46 into the game, and an 81-yard touchdown strike to give the Bears a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter. For the game, Coleman snared 11 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, bringing the junior to an astounding 58 grabs for 1,178 yards and 20 touchdowns – with still a full third of the regular season to go.

K.D. Cannon also added four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, and Jay Lee scored four grabs for 61 yards.

That said, the Bears did miss Russell on Thursday evening.

Baylor did not run the ball like a team that entered the game ranked third nationally at 338.3 yards per game. Not even close. The Bears squeezed out only 103 yards on 34 carries, led by Shock Linwood‘s 13 carries for 72 yards. The 93 yards and 3.03 yards per carry easily stand as Baylor’s lowest outputs this season.

And while the offense racked up 533 yards on 8.2 yards per snap, it failed to put the game away after leading 21-7 at the half and 31-10 with 12:20 remaining. Baylor came up empty on three second half possessions, including their final touch, which ended in a missed 41-yard field goal by Chris Callahan, which gave Kansas State one last chance to send the game to overtime with 51 seconds remaining.

Part of the reason Baylor could not put the pesky Wildcats away was that the Bears’ defense couldn’t get K-State off the field. Running what amounted to a glorified version of the veer offense, Joe Huebner led the Wildcats by completing 12-of-21 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown (with an interception) to go with 29 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns (with a fumble). Charles Jones added 16 rushes for 76 yards. In all, the Wildcats rushed 48 times for 252 yards, and that consistent ground success allowed K-State to simply sit on the football. Their first possession, a 17-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, lasted nine minutes and 21 seconds. After falling behind 31-10, Kansas State methodically climbed back in the game by moving 84 yards in five plays to pull within 31-17, and then marching 77 yards in seven snaps to climb within one score.

Baylor’s defense did end the game for good after Callahan’s missed field goal when Terrell Burt sniffed out a trick play and intercepted a double pass from wide receiver Kody Cook on the first play of the Wildcats’ ensuing possession.

So while Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) will not play another team quite like Kansas State (3-5, 0-5 Big 12) in its quest for a third straight Big 12 title, each of the other three teams vying for the league crown saw something Thursday night they can use against Art Briles and company.

Then again, perhaps we’re being too hard on these Bears. After all, Robert Griffin III lost in Manhattan on his way to winning the 2011 Heisman Trophy, and Bryce Petty also needed 59 minutes to put away the SnyderCats on his way to the 2013 Big 12 title. Stidham stands quite tall when stacked against those guys.

But this much is clear: after eight weeks of prelude, Baylor’s do-or-die three-game season begins next Saturday against Oklahoma, and it’ll take a more complete effort than what the Bears showed Thursday night to beat the Sooners.

Clemson OL: Notre Dame, not Alabama, was best team Tigers played

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Alabama-Clemson IV was historic in many ways back in January. Not only did the sport’s ruling elite meet in the College Football Playoff for the fourth straight season (and for a third time in the title game), it was also the first time two 14-0 teams had ever met in the modern era of the sport.

We all know what happened at Levi’s Stadium too, a 44-16 shellacking by Dabo Swinney’s group that was the worst loss Nick Saban had suffered with the Crimson Tide and extra painful given the big stage. Predictably, that outcome was a big topic at both SEC and ACC media days on Wednesday as both programs took to the podium in Hoover and Charlotte respectively.

The day got off to a very eyebrow-raising start when Alabama blamed the lopsided loss on lack of preparation and focus (for a title game, it should be pointed out). Most folks probably just shook their head at such excuses out of Tuscaloosa but it was what it was.

Now enter Clemson for the follow up a little later on in the day. Offensive lineman John Simpson was asked about the above comments and, well, he seemed to go a different direction than most expected in his retort:

The Tigers topped the Irish 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl-hosted semifinal in what was a meeting of two teams who went undefeated in the regular season. While just about everybody considered Alabama on a different level from Notre Dame start-to-finish in 2018, obviously one offensive lineman at Clemson (and Irish AD Jack Swarbrick) did not.

No matter where your opinion might lie on this subject, you at least have to respect Simpson for giving Paul Finebaum‘s SEC-centric radio/TV show a month’s worth of talking points and angry phone calls from just one quote. And here we were lamenting that the senior guard was being brought to the ACC’s annual kickoff event instead of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence when nothing could have been further from the truth after a comment like that.

Something says that if Alabama-Clemson V winds up being a thing in this year’s edition of the Playoff, that line will be brought up a time or two by Saban as his team enters 2019 looking for a bit of revenge.

SWAC moving conference title game “permanently” on-campus after issues last season

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The Birmingham, Alabama area may be more well known for hosting SEC Media Days this week but the city was also the epicenter of another kickoff event in the SWAC’s annual media day on Tuesday.

And in contrast to their FBS friends down the road in Hoover, the SWAC actually had a bit of pertinent news to discuss in announcing that the league’s annual conference title game in football is moving away from a neutral site going forward.

“The permanent home of the SWAC championship will be on the campus of the higher seed,” commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland said, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate.

McClelland reportedly said several cities bid on hosting the game in the future but the lessons of 2018 had to be a big factor in the league sticking with the home-hosted model adopted by just about everybody outside of the FBS Power Five conferences. Last year the SWAC was forced to move their game on-campus from Legion Field after UAB won their CUSA division and had a chance to host their respective league title game.

Legion Field and the Blazers didn’t wind up actually hosting the CUSA title game but the simple threat of it happening pushed the SWAC out after the league had made a big deal about returning to Birmingham for the game after five years away.

The SWAC and its member schools will still have to worry about last minute location changes for their Dec. 7 title tilt but at least now it will be of their own making and not somebody else’s.

Pair of Eastern Washington players who were shot are out of the hospital, expect to play in 2019

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After a scary incident over the weekend in Spokane, two Eastern Washington football players were released from the hospital earlier this week and appear well on their way to making a full recovery despite some life-threatening injuries sustained in a shooting.

Per The Spokesman-Review, safety Dehonta Hayes was discharged on Saturday evening and defensive lineman Keith Moore was released on Monday after both were shot.

“Keith had broken up a fight outside and the guys took off running,” Hayes told the paper. “I was outside looking for my car keys, and as I got to my car door that was locked, I walked away and heard two pops. They shot at us.”

Despite the serious nature of things, each player still expects to contribute for the Eagles this year after both were listed as a starter coming into 2019. Hayes, who remarkably confirmed he still has a bullet that remains in his neck (!!!), said he’ll be back by camp on August 1st. Moore, who took one to the chest, will return closer to the end of the month.

It goes without saying that both guys are incredibly lucky to not only survive a shooting with those injuries, but to be able to bounce-back and play football just over a month later.

Doak Walker Award releases 2019 watch list

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On Tuesday, we admired the Davey O’Brien Award’s restraint when it came to its watch list. The reason we did that was evident Wednesday, when the Doak Walker Award dropped its watch list.

A whopping 71 players are on alert to be proclaimed the nation’s top running back, compared to yesterday’s 30 quarterbacks. Basically — with one notable exception — if you’ve got a clear starter, he made the list.

The notable exception? Kansas’ Pooka Williams, perhaps because the selectors are concerned that missing the Indiana State game will hurt his numbers that badly.

Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor won the honor in 2018 and he’s back to defend it this year, which would make him the third player in the 30-year history of the award to repeat, joining Texas’ Ricky Williams (1997-98) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (2006-07). Taylor is the fourth Badger to win the Doak Walker, following Ron Dayne (1999), Montee Ball (2012) and Melvin Gordon (2014).

In addition to Taylor, returning finalist Travis Etienne (Clemson) made the list, alongside 2018 semifinalists Eno Benjamin (Arizona State), AJ Dillon (Boston College) and JJ Taylor (Arizona).

Ten semifinalists will be named in November, and three finalists will be announced Nov. 20. The winner will be named during the college football awards show on Dec. 12.

The full watch list is below:

Cam Akers, Florida State
Darius Anderson, TCU
Jafar Armstrong, Notre Dame
LaVante Bellamy, Western Michigan
Eno Benjamin, Arizona State
Max Borghi, Washington State
Isaiah Bowser, Northwestern
Rakeem Boyd, Arkansas
Darius Bradwell, Tulane
Shamari Brooks, Tulsa
Spencer Brown, UAB
Brittain Brown, Duke
Cade Carney, Wake Forest
Michael Carter, North Carolina
Ty Chandler, Tennessee
Andrew Clair, Bowling Green
Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M
Reggie Corbin, Illinois
AJ Dillon, Boston College
J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State
Travis Dye, Oregon
Travis Etienne , Clemson
Darrynton Evans, Appalachian State
Dayton Furuta, Hawaii
Tre Harbison, Northern Illinois
Najee Harris, Alabama
Kylin Hill, Mississippi State
Jerry Howard, Jr., Georgia Tech
Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Keaontay Ingram, Texas
Deon Jackson, Duke
Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State
Tony Jones, Jr., Notre Dame
Lopini Katoa, BYU
Joshua Kelley, UCLA
Bryant Koback, Toledo
Benny LeMay, Charlotte
Vavae Malepeai, USC
Kam Martin, Auburn
Jordan Mason, Georgia Tech
Greg McCrae, UCF
Anthony McFarland, Jr., Maryland
Tra Minter, South Alabama
Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Marcel Murray, Arkansas State
Moe Neal, Syracuse
Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
Lamical Perine, Florida
Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss
Trey Ragas, Louisiana
Ronnie Rivers, Fresno State
Larry Rountree III, Missouri
Mekhi Sargent, Iowa
Cameron Scarlett, Stanford
Stevie Scott III, Indiana
BJ Smith, Troy
Rodney Smith, Minnesota
Kesean Strong, Old Dominion
D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Toa Taua, Nevada
Corey Taylor II, Tulsa
J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
Patrick Taylor, Memphis
DeAndre Torrey, North Texas
Breck Turner, Eastern Michigan
KeShawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Quardraiz Wadley, UTEP
Michael Warren II, Cincinnati
Devwah Whaley, Arkansas