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Late TD pushes Mich. St. past Iowa, punches ticket to playoff

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Little brother no more.

Back in June, exactly zero media members picked Michigan State to win the Big Ten.  Fast-forward six months, and in one of the most boring exciting game you’ll ever watch, MSU punched a ticket to the most exclusive dance in college football as a late touchdown lifted the Spartans to a 16-14 win over previously unbeaten Iowa.

The game-winning touchdown came after a successful fourth-and-two conversion from the Iowa five-yard line, a man-sized one-yard run by freshman  L.J. Scott with just 27 seconds remaining.  The score capped a drive for the ages, a 22-play, 82-yard march led by a quarterback, Connor Cook who obviously wasn’t close to 100-percent healthy and chewed up over nine minutes of the fourth-quarter clock.

The Spartans converted four third downs on the drive as well as the key fourth-down conversion in the red zone.  The key third-down conversion, though, came five minutes earlier as Cook hit Aaron Burbridge for 16 yards from the 50; 12 plays and three conversions later, and after a last-gap effort by the Hawkeyes, the Spartans were conference champions for the first time since 2013 and the third time under head coach Mark Dantonio.

With the Spartans sitting at No. 5 and the Hawkeyes at No. 4, the Big Ten championship game was essentially a play-in game for the playoffs.  Barring something completely unforeseen, one-loss MSU will join fellow one-lossers Alabama and Oklahoma as well as the only remaining unbeaten, Clemson, in the four-team playoff, the field of which will be announced Sunday afternoon.

More than likely, Iowa will be left one hell of a prize as they will likely head to the Rose Bowl.  Ohio State should also earn a New Year’s Six bid to the Fiesta Bowl.

So, why wasn’t Ohio State’s Ryan Day part of the Dodd Trophy’s midseason watch list?

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At first blush, it was quite the head-scratcher.

Thursday afternoon, the Dodd Trophy released its midseason watch list, which consisted of 22 head coaches from seven different FBS conferences as well as a football independent. The most notable omission? Ohio State’s Ryan Day.

Not only did Day have the unenviable task of replacing a living coaching legend in Urban Meyer, but the first-year coach was forced to backfill myriad talent lost to the NFL on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Dwayne Haskins and havoc-wreaking defensive lineman Nick Bosa.

Despite that, Day has the third-ranked Buckeyes sitting at a perfect 6-0 coming off a bye weekend and heading into Friday night’s road trip to Evanston for a date with Northwestern. So, why no Dodd love?

As it turns out, it’s nothing nefarious. At all.

From the fine folks at the Dodd Trophy:

Considering The Dodd Trophy represents more than just a coach’s performance on the field, a coach in his first year, who has not had a full season to establish his own impact on APR and the local community, is not eligible to win.

As for those who are eligible?  See the award’s tweet below.

BYU starting QB vs. Boise State to be game-time decision

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Last week, Jaren Hall became the first black quarterback to start a game at BYU.  Whether he becomes the first black quarterback at the university to start two games remains up in the air.

In the fourth quarter of the Week 7 loss to South Florida, Hall was knocked out of the game with concussion-like symptoms.  There was some encouraging news on that front midweek, though, as Hall returned to full practice on Wednesday.

Despite that, it will likely be a game-time decision as to whether Hall, who himself replaced Zach Wilson after the season-opening starter underwent thumb surgery, will be available for the Boise State game Saturday night.  One hint that it could be Hall again?  Passing-game coordinator Aaron Roderick acknowledged that Hall took the most first-team reps of any of the Cougars quarterbacks during that Wednesday practice.

If Hall is ultimately unable to go, freshman Baylor Romney would very likely get the starting nod.  In replacing the injured Hall against the Bulls, Romney completed 6-of-10 passes for 73 yards on a couple of fourth-quarter drives.

Current No. 3 Joe Critchlow would then serve as Romney’s backup in such a scenario.

Kansas State’s Kenyon Reed leaps headfirst into the portal

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It’s been a couple of days since we’ve kicked off a morning with a portal post, so we were due.

Speculation was swirling over the past couple of days that Kenyon Reed was considering a transfer from Kansas State.  Thursday, defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton confirmed to 247Sports.com and others that the defensive back has made his way into the NCAA transfer database.

According to the coordinator, he became aware of the impending departure the day before, although he wasn’t quite clear in the details surrounding the player’s decision.  To further buttress the coordinator’s confirmation, Reed’s official bio is no longer a valid link.

Reed was a three-star member of the Wildcats’ 2019 recruiting class.  The California high schooler surprised most observers by signing with K-State over UCLA earlier this year.

As Reed didn’t play a down this year, he can take a redshirt for the 2019 season.

UCLA thumps Stanford to break 11-game losing streak to in-state rivals

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UCLA has proven to a bad football team this season. On Thursday night though, we found out Stanford was worse.

The Bruins dominated their in-state rivals 34-16 to snap an 11-game losing streak and notch their second victory of the season in yet another case of a puzzling performance from both sides out of Pac-12 territory.

A lot of the effort — or lack thereof — on account of the Cardinal can be explained by their offense looking very much like one starting a walk-on third string quarterback for the first time. Jack West completed just 15 passes for 143 yards and had trouble seemingly every dropback behind an even more makeshift offensive line (seven sacks allowed). Running the ball was out of the question against a predictably stacked box and the team averaged just 1.8 yards per rush anyway.

All told, Stanford converted just three third downs all game and mustered only 198 yards total as they were booed off the field a few times by the sparse crowd in attendance. Kicker Jet Toner was also injured in the first quarter and the only other non-garbage time touchdown came off a blocked punt.

As bad as things were for the home side, they went equally well for a UCLA team that scored on their first drive and were in complete control of the game for the first time since Chip Kelly took over the program. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson was electric with his arm (192 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and legs (66 yards, 1 TD) while Joshua Kelley notched 176 yards on the ground with a score of his own.

In the process of stealing Stanford’s soul, the Bruins managed to end a long losing streak to their rivals in the Bay, winning on the Farm for the first time since the Karl Dorrell era in Westwood and first time overall since 2008. Coincidentally, that latter year was the last time the Cardinal missed a bowl game or won fewer than eight games — a streak that very much appears to be ending in 2019 unless the team invents a time machine in the next week or runs the table the rest of the regular season.

Make no bones about it, this was a very ugly and hard to watch rock fight between two bad teams that not even #Pac12AfterDark juju could save.

It remains to be seen just where these two programs go from here but at least on Thursday night, Kelly was able to overcome an old adversary and put an end to a streak many at his school thought would go on for a while. It didn’t however as UCLA can celebrate on their way back to Southern California while David Shaw‘s team will have a few extra days to contemplate just what kind of team they are this season.