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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.

Trevor Lawrence heads Preseason AP All-American team

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Everyone and their blog now has an All-American team; so many are out there, in fact, that if we wrote about all of them we’d never write about anything else.

But there’s something different about being a Preseason AP All-American, and as such we’d be remiss if we didn’t add to our historical record here at CFT.

Most notably, Trevor Lawrence nudged out Tua Tagovailoa for the First Team quarterback job, where he’s joined by running back Travis Etienne and linebacker Isaiah Simmons on the First Team. Alabama also had three First Teamers — wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and linebacker Dylan Moses.

The SEC led all conferences with eight First Team selections, followed by the Big Ten’s seven.

Without further ado, behold the 2019 Preseason AP All-America First Team:

OFFENSE
QB: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
RB: Travis Etienne, Clemson; Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
WR: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama; Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
TE: Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
C: Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
OG: Ben Bredeson, Michigan; Shane Lemieux, Oregon
OT: Walker Little, Stanford; Andrew Thomas, Georgia
AP: Rondale Moore, Purdue
K: Andre Szmyt, Syracuse

DEFENSE
LB: Joe Bachie, Michigan State; Dylan Moses, Alabama; Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
S: Andre Cisco, Syracuse; Grant Delpit, LSU
CB: Paulson Abedo, Stanford; Bryce Hall, Virginia
DE: AJ Epenesa, Iowa; Chase Young, Ohio State
DT: Derrick Brown, Auburn; Raekwon Davis, Alabama
P: Braden Mann, Texas A&M

It’s grrrrreat! Tony the Tiger claims title sponsorship of Sun Bowl

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The Sun Bowl has a new title sponsor and it’s, well, it’s great. The El Paso-based postseason college football game will now be sponsored by Tony the Tiger. Don’t be mistaken, it’s not sponsored by Kellogg’s brand or even Frosted Flakes cereal, but Tony the Tiger himself.

“For the last few months we’ve worked closely and collectively with the Sun Bowl association and it’s become clear how well the association understands the strength and resilience of this community and we are honored to be part of it,” Kellogg’s marketing director Bryant Wheaton told the El Paso Times.

The change has already been reflected on the Sun Bowl’s Twitter account — sort of. The name and avatar have been changed, but the handle, as of press time, still reflected the bowl’s previous sponsor, Hyundai.

The Sun Bowl, first played on Jan. 1, 1935 between the El Paso All-Stars and Ranger (Texas) High School, has now welcomed nine title sponsors. The game takes credit for bringing title sponsorship to the college football postseason.

“We were the very first bowl ever to have a title sponsor, back in 1986 when John Hancock saved the Sun Bowl from going extinct,” executive director Bernie Olivas told the El Paso Times. “We have had some great sponsors since then. Our past sponsor, who had been with us nine years, is the longest sponsor we’ve ever had.

“When we got the title sponsor in 1986, there were only 16 bowls. We were the first ones to have a title sponsor. The rest of the bowls shunned us, they said, ‘You sold out.’ Well how do you like us now?”

The 85th annual Sun Bowl will once again pit the ACC against the Pac-12 on Tuesday, Dec. 31 (2 p.m. ET, CBS). Stanford won the 2018 edition, topping Pitt, 14-13.

Bo Nix to become Auburn’s first true freshman starting QB since 1946

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Another quarterback battle has been called, and another one has gone to a true freshman.

Auburn has selected Bo Nix as its starter, 11 days ahead of the No. 16 Tigers’ season opener against No. 11 Oregon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

He will be Auburn’s first true freshman starting quarterback since Travis Tidwell in 1946. More recently, he will be the seventh true freshman signal caller for the Tigers since 1969.

Much like at North Carolina, where a true freshman beat out redshirt freshmen for the job, this selection must be viewed in context. Auburn was going with a freshman either way, be it true freshman Nix or redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. The offense was set to go in different directions depending on who got the job, as Gatewood (listed at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds) is built with the Cam Newton starter kit, while Nix is three inches shorter and 26 pounds lighter.

Still, Nix will be able to run the ball, and Auburn’s coaches have long been in love with his arm.

“We started recruiting Bo in 8th or 9th grade,” Gus Malzahn said back on signing day. “You knew early on that this guy had a chance to really be special. Of course when he went to Pinson, they won back-to-back state championships. He was the MVP of both of those.

“He really has something special to him. He did a super job leading. He was one of the leaders of our class, really holding everything together. I really appreciate his leadership with that.”

Playing for his father at Alabama’s Pinson Valley High School, Nix accounted for 12,000 yards of total offense, threw for 127 touchdowns, rushed for 34 more and won back-to-back Class 6A state championships.

Now, he’ll try to lead Auburn to its second SEC West championship in three years during a crucial season for Malzahn and the entire Auburn program.

Ex-Oklahoma WR John Humphrey tweets transfer from Arizona State

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The all-powerful transfer portal could give two spits about a new season that’s fast approaching.

The latest example of the burgeoning phenomenon that is the database is Arizona State and John Humphrey, with the latter confirming on Twitter that he has decided to transfer from the former.  As Humphrey will be leaving the Sun Devils as a graduate transfer, he’s eligible to play immediately in 2019 if he opts to move on to another FBS school.

The upcoming season would the receiver’s fifth season of eligibility, although there’s a possibility he could petition for a sixth year that he could use in 2020 as well.

Humphrey was a three-star member of Oklahoma’s 2015 recruiting class, rated as the No. 61 wide receiver in the country and the No. 67 player at any position in the state of Texas. In April of 2016, he announced his decision to transfer from OU; a month later, he announced his decision to transfer to ASU.

After sitting out the 2016 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Humphrey put up huge numbers in his Sun Devils debut, catching seven passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in ASU’s season-opening win over New Mexico State. In large part because of a knee injury sustained in the opener, however, he finished that season with just 13 catches, 177 yards and the one touchdown.

A torn Achilles tendon sustained in March of last year cost Humphrey the entire 2018 season as well.