Another week, another game where No. 5 Michigan State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) took care of business. The Spartans will play for the Big Ten championship after wrapping up the Big Ten East Division on its home field with a convincing victory over Penn State (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) Saturday in East Lansing, 55-16. The win clinched the east due to a head-to-head tiebreaker against Ohio State earned last weekend in Columbus and sets up a battle with undefeated Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis next weekend.
Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook was not playing at 100 percent, but he was more than effective enough to lead the Spartans to victory in his final game in Spartan Stadium. Cook tossed three touchdowns for Michigan State and was the clear winner in the battle of potential early-round NFL draft picks in the 2016 NFL Draft. Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg was picked off on the first possession of the game and was not as efficient with his passing as Penn State’s offensive line was manhandled at times by the Spartans defensive front. Hackenberg’s stock has dropped some this season (fitting considering how many dropped passes Penn State receivers have had this season), but Cook’s steady play should keep him among the candidates for top quarterbacks in the draft pool.
Leading by 10 going to halftime, 20-10, Michigan State took firm control of the game right out of the halftime break by driving right down the field on Penn State for an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to build a 27-10 lead. After the Spartans defense forced a three-and-out, Michigan State strung together another draining touchdown drive, going 69 yards over 12 plays and capping the drive with Cook completing a touchdown pass to Josiah Price for a 34-10 lead. From there, Michigan State could waltz its way to the win, because there was no way Penn State was battling back from that deficit with its offensive play and drained and depleted defense.
Michigan State will now play No. 4 Iowa for the Big Ten championship next week in Indianapolis. This will be the first time Iowa has played in the conference’s championship game, but this will be Michigan State’s third trip to the big game. That will tie Wisconsin for most appearances in the Big Ten title game, which was first played between the Spartans and Badgers in 2011. Michigan State won the Big Ten championship in 2013, knocking off what was an undefeated Ohio State team. There is no question that Michigan State is a program ready to play on the big stage this game will offer, especially with so much riding on the outcome with a spot in the College Football Playoff in sight. Getting by Iowa may prove tricky with the Hawkeyes defense, but if Michigan State plays the way it did today against Penn State and has in the past when in a big game, then the Spartans should feel very confident in their chances next week in Indianapolis. The winner of next week’s Big Ten Championship Game is pretty much guaranteed a spot in the four-team playoff field at the end of the season.
Penn State, on the other hand, will begin waiting for a bowl invitation to come their way and prepare to figure out how it can take steps forward as a football program. Penn State will very likely be playing in one of the Big Ten’s lower-profile bowl games. It played in the Pinstripe Bowl last season and will not be going back there. The extra practices will be beneficial for Penn State though, as it continues to need to improve on offensive line. The time off will also be welcomed, as Penn State’s defense has been gassed and depleted down the stretch of the regular season.
Thaddeus Moss is officially a one-and-done at LSU after declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.
The star LSU tight end became the ninth underclassman for the national champions to leave campus for the pros this week. He made the announcement on social media in a letter thanking the fan base:
Moss played a pivotal role in the team’s record-setting offense in 2019. He caught 47 passes for 570 yards and had three of his four touchdowns come in the College Football Playoffs. That included a pair of scores in the title game, one of which doubled as the one that allowed QB Joe Burrow to set the FBS record for TD passes in a season.
The one-time North Carolina State transfer is no stranger to the pros either way. He’s the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss and will be part of an intriguing class of players at tight end this spring.
While it’s possible there will be an additional name or two that surfaces, Friday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare means Moss’ departure could be the last for LSU for the time being. Still, that’s a lot of talent to lose as Ed Orgeron embarks on an offseason full of changes right after reaching the top of the sport.
It’s not often you get a shocking announcement for a player returning for his senior year but this might qualify.
In an announcement posted on Twitter Friday afternoon, Clemson’s star tailback Travis Etienne surprised pretty much everybody by saying he would skip the 2020 NFL Draft and remain on campus for his senior season.
Etienne was a Heisman Trophy candidate for much of 2019 and has been a key cog in the Tigers’ incredible record the past few years. He’s rushed for over 1,600 yards each of the past two seasons and continued to become a threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield as well.
While many expected the junior to turn pro and join a deep class of running backs, apparently the taste left in his mouth by Monday’s national title game was just the extra push he needed to stay on campus to aim for another championship.
Though Dabo Swinney has to deal with a handful of departures from the two-deep this offseason, the return of Etienne should only further cement Clemson as the preseason No. 1 team for 2020. The tailback and quarterback Trevor Lawrence both figure to be high draft picks the following spring but for now they will be aiming for another ring with a team that just won 29 games in a row.
Last year, everybody wanted to know where Jalen Hurts would transfer to. This year? D’Eriq King might take that mantle.
The Houston quarterback entered the NCAA Transfer Portal shortly before the national title game on Monday and is already moving on to lining up visits. One of the first stops on King’s transfer tour? We already know that a trip to Miami to check out the Hurricanes on the docket but that’s not all on a busy weekend. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland is on deck for the signal-caller this Saturday.
The Terps turning to a graduate transfer is nothing new. Head coach Mike Locksley brought in Josh Jackson to mixed success in 2019 after the latter left Virginia Tech. King, however, would represent a much more dynamic option behind center for the team.
King set numerous records with the Cougars and scored 50 touchdowns (36 passing and 14 rushing) in 2018 alone. The prolific numbers also came despite the fact that he missed two games due to a knee injury. While UH had long maintained that King’s surprising redshirt decision this past season was part of a plan that would see him return to the team for 2020, things have played out pretty much as expected in him looking elsewhere.
Whether he lands in College Park remains to be seen but it’s no surprise Locksley is dipping into the market. Tyrrell Pigrome is a senior but isn’t quite up to Big Ten passing standards and depth behind him is limited. That’s always an issue at Maryland given the injury history at the position too.
Landing somebody like King would be quite a coup for the Terps but it’s pretty clear they’ll be just one of several programs in hot pursuit of the Texas native’s services.
Last one left in Baton Rouge, please turn out the lights.
In an announcement posted to social media on Friday morning, LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson became the eighth underclassman off the Tigers’ national championship team to announce he was skipping his final year and declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft.
The move ensures that the Tigers will have to replace their entire starting linebacking corps from this past season following Patrick Queen’s earlier departure. That’s in addition to a host of other big names and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda as well.
Chaisson arrived in Baton Rouge as a top recruit from Texas but injuries over the years prevented him from becoming the kind of player many thought he would blossom into. Nevertheless, he had a memorable 2019 and was a terror down the stretch run with several big games — including being named Peach Bowl MVP in the semifinal against Oklahoma.
The 6-foot-4, 250 pounder was originally a defensive end but has been effective as a rusher after developing quite nicely as an outside linebacker. Though he really only had one lengthy season as a starter after an ACL tear as a sophomore, Chaisson is still considered a potential Day 1 or 2 pick in a few months time at the draft.
While head coach Ed Orgeron has to still be soaking up the glory of being the champions, the LSU head coach will have little time to waste over the coming weeks dealing with all these departures from both the coaching staff and the two-deep. Defections after winning a title are nothing new but Chaisson’s announcement only added to the difficulty the program will have in trying to make it back-to-back in 2020.