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Spartans snap Buckeyes’ 23-game win streak on last-second FG, take control of B1G East

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All week long leading into their game against Ohio State, Michigan State had to hear pundits downplay their chances of going into a Columbus and stealing a win from the No. 3 Buckeyes.  Never mind that, ranked eighth in the country, the Spartans weren’t exactly coming into a gun fight armed only with a knife.

Saturday night, they served notice to anyone that overlooked them or just flat-out forgot about them.

Battling a hostile environment in inclement weather and without their starting quarterback, the Spartans stood tall, turning a gutsy performance into a stunning 17-14 upset of the Buckeyes.  The game-winning points came of the right leg of Michael Geiger, whose 41-yarder as the clock expired was the difference.

For Ohio State, it was the end of a 23-game winning streak; a couple of years ago, it was Michigan State that ended the Buckeyes’ 24-game winning streak in the Big Ten championship game.  The loss also ended the Buckeyes’ record of 30 straight regular season Big Ten wins.

For Michigan State, the win gives it complete and total control of the Big Ten East.  MSU can earn a spot in the conference championship game opposite Iowa with either a win over Penn State next week or, if they lose, a Michigan win over OSU.  The Buckeyes can still claim the East, but it would take a win over the Wolverines and a Spartans loss to the Nittany Lions.

Making the win all the more impressive was the fact that the Spartans did it without All-Big Ten quarterback Connor Cook, who sat out with an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder.  In his place, Tyler O'Connor made his first collegiate start, and the junior did exactly what he was supposed to: manage the game and not turn the ball over.  For the most part he did all of that, even as his one turnover, a fumble, led to the Buckeyes’ first touchdown.

It was the Spartans’ defense, though, that was the story of the game — well, that any the lack of any type of cohesive game plan on OSU’s part.  The high-powered Buckeyes were held to a season-low 132 yards of offense; it was also the lowest total ever in head coach Urban Meyer‘s coaching career.  On a night when they passed for just a mere 43 yards, and could do nothing down the field, Heisman Trophy candidate Ezekiel Elliott ran the ball just 12 times.  Unbelievably, just three of those carries came in a second half in which the Buckeyes either led or were tied for all 30 minutes.

While much of the credit should go to the Spartans’ defense, Meyer will (rightly) have a lot of explaining to do for a plan that more closely resembled a game of blindfolded darts than anything else, especially for a game played in those conditions.

As for the playoff picture?  It doesn’t change it much if at all in that it seems highly likely the winner of the Big Ten championship game, whether it’s one-loss Michigan State or unbeaten Iowa, will still be a decided favorite to claim one of the spots in the two semifinals.  In fact, the only thing that really changed is, barring a significant turn of events, Ohio State won’t be getting the opportunity to defend its 2014 national championship.

Such is your lot in life, though, when you have a Porsche and you keep it parked for most of the race.

Dad of former Northwestern QB donated a real, stuffed wildcat to ‘Cats new facility

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Northwestern’s state-of-the-art football facility, literally on the shore of Lake Michigan, is now fully operational, at a low, low cost of $260 million.

The facility has everything — including an actual wild cat.

According to a story by Yahoo‘s Eric Edholm, a stuffed cat was donated to the program by Walter Siemian, the father of former Wildcat quarterback Trevor Siemian. The plan was to originally sell it and use the proceeds to benefit the program, but apparently Pat Fitzgerald saw the cat and fell in love.

Walter Siemian took down the predator — legally, of course — last November, sent the cat of prey in question to a taxidermist and then donated it to the program.

The initial understanding was that it would be sold, with the proceeds benefitting the program. After all, these things draw some serious coin. (One current listing here for a mountain lion, which this mammal appears to be, is going for more than $12,000.) But once Fitzgerald saw it, the story goes, there was no way he was letting it leave.

The cat was staying put. That’s also easy to see why. And it’s now the first thing you see when you enter the coaches’ meeting rooms.

The hope with facilities like these is that the enhanced investment into football will lead to the Northwestern coaching staff singing a different class of recruit, which will in turn allow the program to pair their stuffed mascot with some Big Ten championship trophies.

That’s the hope, at least.

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.