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Offense (mostly) a rumor as ‘Bama pitches 1st-half shutout on Mich. St.

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If your New Year’s resolutions this time 12 months ago included “make the last college football game I watch be the dictionary definition of a defensive struggle,” pat yourself on the back for achieving at least one of the goals you set.

With offense mostly a rumor, the defenses of both No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Michigan State came to the forefront again and again and again — and again for good measure — until a late big play from the Tide’s offense led to the only touchdown in the half and helped give the SEC champions a 10-0 lead after two quarters of play.  The first seven drives of the game, four from MSU and three by UA, ended in punts, with none piercing the opposition’s 35-yard line let alone the red zone.

And then a true freshman sensation happened.  Again.

With just over six minutes remaining in the half and just shy of midfield, Calvin Ridley got behind the Spartans’ secondary and glided his way underneath a beautifully-thrown Jake Coker bomb to set the Tide up at the one-yard line.  Following an MSU penalty, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, behind 600-plus pounds of backfield beef, plowed his way in from less than a yard out for the game’s lone touchdown.

On the Tide’s next offensive possession, a 41- yard Coker-to-O.J. Howard hookup led to a field goal with 1:25 left and the first-half margin.

Aside from that, though, the offensive fireworks weren’t even few and far between, they were just few.

The Spartans managed just 63 yards of total offense before a final drive pushed that first-half total to 124, and averaged minus-.7 — yes, negative-point-seven — yards per carry on their 13 rushing attempts, and punted on all eight possessions.  The deepest they penetrated into Tide territory was the 12-yard line on their last possession of the half… but a poor decision by senior Connor Cook, who has struggled throughout, led to a goal-line interception that prevented at least a chip-shot field goal attempt at the end of the second.

Henry, thanks to an equally-stifling MSU run defense, didn’t exactly have his Heisman numbers on full display as the junior was limited to 34 yards on 12 carries.  Henry did, though, become the first player in SEC history and the 19th FBS player ever to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a single season.

Coker, the least-experienced of the two starting quarterbacks, went 16-of-20 passing for 177 yards as part of an offensive effort that netted the Tide 212 total yards.  Cook, the second-winningest current FBS quarterback, was 9-of-18 for 133 yards and the one very costly pick.

The damage of that interception is amplified by the fact that the Tide will get the ball on offense to start the second half.

 

NCAA committee chair hints at changes coming to four-game redshirt rule

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This college football season has been a bit different from most thanks to a combination of two factors that have very little to do with the play on the field: a new rule allowing players to redshirt despite playing in four games and the NCAA transfer portal.

Amid a flurry of player movement as a result of those two, on top of unique situations like Houston’s D’Eriq King deciding to take a redshirt in what amounts to a lost year for the Cougars, it seems the powers at be are already eyeing tweaking the current status quo. West Virgnia AD Shane Lyons chairs the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and remarked on a local radio show that adjustments to the current set of rules are likely to be discussed during meetings at the NCAA convention in January.

“I don’t think it’s a good optic for college sports,” Lyons said, according to the West Virginia MetroNews. “The way it looks, a student-athlete is potentially quitting on his team.

“It’s something the committee will look at in their January meeting to make any adjustments as necessary.”

Despite the redshirt rule originating from coaches themselves, in practice it has proven to be problematic for many because players have either removed themselves from action in order to save up a season and play elsewhere or simply entered the transfer portal. Such roster management concerns have led to plenty of criticism about the unintended consequences of the changes and now it appears the adults in the room are getting together to come up with a few changes to defeat the reasoning behind both rules.

We’ll see what happens between now and the January meetings but the days of going four-and-out for some might be coming to an end with the 2019 season.

Nearly half of Saturday’s conference championship games feature double-digit odds

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At least based on the sportsbooks, you shouldn’t expect much drama on championship weekend — which means we should all brace for absolute and utter hell breaking loose, of course.

Friday night and on into Saturday, the 10 FBS conferences will hold their respective league championship games, the results of which will not only shape the College Football Playoff but the New Year’s Six Bowls and all the way down to the lower-tier bowls. As of this posting, and by way of the BetMGM Sportsbook, nearly half of those 10 title games feature double-digit odds:

  • ACC — No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson (-28½)
  • Big Ten — No. 1 Ohio State (-15½) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
  • Mountain West — Hawaii vs. No. 19 Boise State (-13½)
  • AAC — No. 20 Cincinnati vs. No. 17 Memphis (-10½)

A fifth, the Big 12 championship game, is nearly double-digits as No. 6 Oklahoma is a 9½-point favorite over No. 7 Baylor.

The other five matchups have hovered around seven points or so, including the SEC title game featuring 6½-point favorite and second-ranked LSU clashing with No. 4 Georgia, since the matchups were decided last weekend:

  • Pac-12 (Friday night) — No. 5 Utah (-6½) vs. No. 13 Oregon
  • Sun Belt — Louisiana vs. No. 21 Appalachian State (-6½)
  • MAC — Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan (-6½)
  • Conference USA — UAB vs. Florida Atlantic (-7½)

Ohio State first school to score Top-10 wins in football, hoops in four days since… Michigan three decades ago

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Some history was made overnight that involves both sides of The Game.

Wednesday night, sixth-ranked Ohio State took seventh-ranked North Carolina to the woodshed in a 74-49 win, handing the Tar Heels the basketball program’s worst-ever home loss at the Dean Dome under Roy Williams.  Four days earlier, second-ranked Ohio State took 10th-ranked Michigan to the woodshed in a 56-27 win, handing the Wolverines their eighth straight loss — and 15th in 16 meetings — in the rivalry.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, this marks the first time in nearly three decades and just the second time ever that one school had scored wins in Associated Press Top-10 matchups in football and basketball in a span of four days or fewer.  The only other school to pull off that feat?  Michigan, in 1992-93.

I have no clue what it actually all means, but it sounds pretty impressive.  And fairly hilarious that it involves both sides of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.

Oklahoma DL Jalen Redmond’s status unclear for Big 12 title game

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Ahead of Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, the status of a key rotational piece of one of the participant’s defensive line is decidedly up in the air.

Jalen Redmond didn’t travel with the rest of his No. 6 Oklahoma teammates to last Saturday’s Bedlam win over No. 25 Oklahoma State because of an unspecified issue.  With a date against Baylor on tap for Saturday, it remains unclear whether the redshirt freshman defensive lineman will be available for the conference title game.

“He has progressed this week,” Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said when asked about Redmond’s availability. “We don’t have a complete decision right now, but he’s certainly better at this point than he was last week.”

In July of last year, Riley confirmed that, because of blood clots, Redmond would not play at all in 2018. However, the then-true freshman defied the initial medical odds and ultimately returned in October to play in three games before a recurrence of the clots in mid-November sidelined Redmond for the remainder of the year.

This season, Redmond had played in the first 11 games, starting two of those contests, before missing the Week 14 win.  Redmond is currently third on the Sooners in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with four.