Many an eyebrow was raised when one-loss Texas A&M was slotted ahead of unbeaten Washington in the first playoff rankings for the 2016 season. Those eyebrows can now officially be lowered — to half-staff in College Station, as it turns out.
With star players on each side of the ball on the sidelines, A&M was unable to overcome its halftime deficit in the final two quarters as Mississippi State bullied its way to a 35-28 win in Starkville. The Bulldogs held a 21-7 lead late in the second quarter, only to see Christian Kirk return a punt 93 yards for the score to cut the deficit to 14 just before the half; Kirk was responsible for slicing further into the lead, scoring on a 54-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter to pull the Aggies to within seven at 28-21.
On the ensuing possession, however, the Bulldogs drove 73 yards in a drive that was culminated by Nick Fitzgerald‘s four-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes remaining in the game. The punishing drive lasted 14 plays and burned nearly eight minutes off the fourth-quarter clock, and featured a trio of key third-down conversions.
With 1:33 left to play, though, a four-yard Jake Hubenak touchdown pass to Josh Reynolds on fourth down pulled the Aggies to within seven at 35-28. However, the Aggies failed to recover an onside kick and the Bulldogs were able to run out most of the remainder of the clock. They still had one more (very faint) chance, but that chance was intercepted to seal the upset.
Fitzgerald accounted for nearly 400 yards of offense — 209 passing, 180 rushing. The sophomore also scored four of the Bulldogs’ five touchdowns, two each in the air and on the ground.
A&M, ranked No. 4 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, played the entire second half without starting quarterback Trevor Knight (shoulder), and the vast majority of the last two quarters without star defensive end Garrett Myles. MSU improved to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in SEC play.
Rutgers has officially been in the market for a new head football coach for over a week, and now the school is going to get some help from a search firm.
Rutgers announced a new partnership with Ventura Partners on Monday. The firm will help Rutgers in searching for a new head football coach and may assist in helping to hire other new leaders in the future as Rutgers looks to revitalize their entire athletics department.
“We are excited to be working with Ventura Partners,” Rutgers Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs said in a released statement on Monday. “They provide a unique range of services, including talent acquisition and development. We will begin working together immediately to ensure excellent leadership for our football program. They will also be working with us throughout the engagement on strengthening our human resources and providing market data and intelligence.”
Rutgers fired Chris Ash as head coach on Sept. 29, which is a costly move thanks to a previous contract extension. The Scarlet Knights have since been dealing with a handful of players redshirting the remainder of the season and an abysmal performance on the road against Indiana in which the team gained just 75 yards of offense while giving up over 500 yards to the Hoosiers.
With the upcoming departure of UConn from the American Athletic Conference, the staus of the AAC Championship Game is officially in question. Without 12 football-playing members, the AAC does not satisfy the NCAA requirement to play an official conference championship game without a waiver. Not wanting to give up the title game just a few short years after implementing it (and accepting the extra revenue generated in the TV contract), AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is hoping to get some positive word on a waiver request sometime soon.
It looks like we may have an update on this situation within the month. The sooner, the better.
UConn is leaving the AAC after this current football season, and Aresco has made it clear the conference still wants to continue playing its conference title game. The current plan is for the AAC to scrap the two-division format entirely and pit the two best teams in a conference championship game at the end of the regular season (an idea that would work well in almost every conference, by the way). The AAC reportedly field a formal waiver to allow for the championship game to live on back in August.
The Big 12 currently only has 10 members and has been granted permission to field a conference championship game on top of the round-robin schedule played during the season. If the Big 12 can have a conference title game without 12 members, then the AAC should be getting confirmation their conference championship game will continue too. But waiting for the official word is needed before the conference can start making plans for 2020 and beyond.
At this point, there remains no sign the conference is looking to add a 12th member for football, which would negate the need for a waiver. But if the waiver is denied, for some reason, then expect the AAC expansion rumors to start flying once again.
The NCAA transfer portal has been busy this Monday. Add Michigan tight end Mustapha Muhammad as one of the latest entrants into the transfer portal. Muhammad made the transfer portal news himself with an announcement on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.
Muhammad is a redshirt freshman. He will have to sit out the 2020 season if he lands at another FBS program, and he will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning 2021. By entering the transfer portal, Muhammad is free to have contact with any other football program looking to recruit him out of Ann Arbor. The Texas native signed with Michigan over offers from Ohio State, Alabama, and Clemson, among others. Unfortunately, the highly rated recruit hasn’t been able to establish a key role in the Michigan offense early on, even with the Wolverines offense looking for playmakers.
Michigan’s tight end position appears to be settled with Nick Eubanks and Sean McKeon reaching the midway point of the season as Michigan’s leading tight ends when it comes to receiving yards. Eubanks is fifth on the team overall with 128 receiving yards and a touchdown. McKeon has added 96 yards and two touchdowns. Both players are seniors, however, but Michigan also has redshirt freshman Luke Schoonmaker as an option at the tight end position moving forward.
Oregon defensive back Kahlef Hailassie is now officially on the market. Hailassie announced on his Twitter account on Monday afternoon he has officially entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal.
A sophomore and a member of Oregon’s Class of 2018, Hailassie is now eligible to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him to their program. when he committed to the Ducks out of high school, Hailassie chose Oregon over offers from Colorado and Washington State, among others. Hailassie had previously committed to Colorado during his recruiting process, only to de-commit shortly after an official visit to Boulder.
Hailassie played in just three games this season before being sidelined with an injury. Because he has played in fewer than four games, Hailassie can use the 2019 season as a redshirt year. Hailassie played in all 13 games for Oregon as a true freshman in 2018, recording one tackle as a reserve player and a special teams player. Hailassie will have to sit out the 2020 season if he ends up at another FBS program, which would make him eligible to return to the field with two full years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2021.