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Bob Stoops retiring as head coach at Oklahoma, effective immediately

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This is, to say the least, the most stunning development of the 2017 offseason.

First reported by The Oklahoman‘s Berry Tramel, Bob Stoops informed his Oklahoma football team at a meeting this afternoon that, effective immediately, he has decided to step down as the Sooners’ head football coach.  While the school has yet to acknowledge anything pertaining to its long-time coach, an official announcement is expected at some point this afternoon.

It’s unclear why Stoops would wait until less than two months before the start of summer camp and less then three months before the start of the 2017 season to make such a decision.  The coaching infrastructure already in place, though, should make for an easier transition.

That brings us to a replacement, with multiple reports indicating that 33-year-old OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will be taking over for his boss.  Earlier this offseason, Riley was given a new contract that makes him one of the highest-paid coordinators in the sport.

The 56-year-old Stoops was set to enter his 19th season heading the program prior to the stunning development.  In his 18 seasons with the program, he guided the Sooners to a 190-48 record.  After a 7-5 first season, OU one 10-plus games in 14 of the next 17 seasons.  The Sooners won 11 games six times — including what turned out to be the last two seasons of Stoops’ tenure — 12 games five times and 13 games once.

Stoops won 10 Big 12 championships, including nine outright, during his time in Norman.  His 2000 squad won the lone national title of his tenure, going unbeaten in 13 games and capping the championship season with a 13-2 win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl.  That was the Sooners’ first since 1985.

Obviously, we’ll have more on this breaking story throughout the remainder of the day.

UPDATED 4:33 p.m. ET: Oklahoma has confirmed that Bob Stoops is retiring as the head football coach at OU after 18 seasons.

Below are the statements from the pertinent individuals involved in today’s shocking turn of events.

BOB STOOPS
“After 18 years at the University of Oklahoma, I’ve decided to step down as the head football coach. I understand there has been some speculation about my health. My health was not the deciding factor in this decision and I’ve had no incidents that would prevent me from coaching. I feel the timing is perfect to hand over the reins. The program is in tremendous shape. We have outstanding players and coaches and are poised to make another run at a Big 12 and national championship. We have new state-of-the-art facilities and a great start on next year’s recruiting class. The time is now because Lincoln Riley will provide a seamless transition as the new head coach, capitalizing on an excellent staff that is already in place and providing familiarity and confidence for our players. Now is simply the ideal time for me and our program to make this transition.

“The Bible says, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I’m grateful for this season of my life, and feel I’ve fulfilled my purpose here at OU as its head football coach.

“I’m thankful that my career at Oklahoma was marked with consistent leadership in President David Boren and Director of Athletics Joe Castiglione. It’s extremely rare in college athletics to have no change in these leadership positions over a nearly 20-year span. I always appreciated the way both of them supported me and our program. They both played an enormous role in all our successes.

“I have been very fortunate to have such outstanding coaches in my time at OU. Our players have always benefitted from their strong leadership, on and off the field. I was also blessed with a strong support staff — strength and conditioning, equipment, sports medicine, academics, video — every aspect of our program was staffed with very talented people who took a great deal of pride in making Oklahoma football the best.

“I’m especially thankful for being able to coach so many talented young men over my 18 years here. It has been so rewarding to see these players come to OU and mature over a four or five-year career, and not just on the field. To play a small part in their growth is what I will always cherish the most.

None of my success would have happened without the best fans in the country. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the 110 consecutive home sellouts. The passion of our fan base is unmatched, and their support has played a huge role in not only home games, but road games and all 18 of our bowl games, as well.

“Lastly, I’d like to thank my wife, Carol, and my daughter, Mackie, and my sons, Drake and Isaac. They have been a major part of this success. Being the wife or child of a coach is often tough, and they’ve all been strong through both good times and challenging times.

“The coaching life is like a relay race and I’m thankful for my turn and am confident as I pass the baton. Carol and I intend on staying in Norman — it is our home. I will be available to Coach Riley and the athletic department in any manner. Thank you all for a lifetime of memories we shared together of 10 conference championships, the 2000 national championship, strong relationships with players and coaches, and the great Oklahoma football fans. Boomer!”

OU PRESIDENT DAVID BOREN
“It was with sadness that I learned of the decision of Coach Bob Stoops to step down as head football coach at Oklahoma. Coach Stoops has made a critically important and lasting contribution to the OU football program. He has led to its restoration as one of the top programs in the nation. His success has helped provide the momentum for major new facilities like the improvements and expansion of the football stadium. Because of his unquestioned personal integrity and high standards, he is one of the most admired college football coaches in America.

“His decision to step down at this time was motivated partly by his belief that he has the right successor already in place in the program, Lincoln Riley, and he wanted to pass the leadership on at a time of strength for the program. His decision is typical of his unselfishness and always putting first the best interest of the players and program.

“I personally value him as a person and as a friend. I’m glad that Coach Stoops will remain an active member of our university family and will continue to serve the athletics department and be of help to our new head coach. The departure of Coach Stoops as head coach is a bittersweet time. I agree completely that we have exactly the right person already in place to take the helm. Coach Riley enjoys the complete confidence of the administration and university community. He has the talent and personal character to be a worthy successor to Coach Stoops.”

OU ATHLETIC DIRECTOR JOE CASTIGLIONE
“It is rare in today’s world that a president, athletics director and head football coach can work together for 18 successful seasons. Bob Stoops stands as one of the premier legendary figures in one of the most storied programs in college football history, yet he is still best identified by his humble nature and team approach that refused to get caught up in stature. That’s the reason Bob is such a great leader. He has great vision and great accomplishment, but it never changed who he is as a man and a coach.

“Working alongside him has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. Few athletics directors get a coach who better combines success and cohesiveness like Bob Stoops. I can’t help but feel somewhat sad today because Bob has been such a constant in my life, and that’s why I am so thankful that he will remain with us. He will continue to do great things for OU.

“At the same time, I am thrilled that Lincoln Riley is in position to take over as the head coach. He is widely regarded as one of the brightest minds in college football and there is no question in my mind that he is the complete package. Our program is in very good hands. Lincoln and I have a great relationship and I can’t wait to embark on this new era with him. I am sure our fans share my enthusiasm. We celebrate a tremendous legacy today and because of what Bob did here and the coach we have identified, we look forward to our future with great optimism.”

CFT Cheat Sheet: What to know for Week 4

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A quick primer on who, what and where to look for as we head into Week 4 of the 2019 college football season.

WEEK 4 STORYLINES

  • After a Week 3 that saw no Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchups for the first time since October of 2017, Week 4 brings three such games, with the most noteworthy being No. 7 Notre Dame — and ESPN‘s College GameDay roadshow — traveling to Athens to square off with No. 3 Georgia in a primetime non-conference affair.  The football bluebloods have faced each other just twice previously, the most recent in 2017 (one-point UGA win in South Bend) and the first coming in the Sugar Bowl following the 1980 regular season.  When it comes to this year’s playoff picture, this game is exponentially more important to Notre Dame than Georgia as the Fighting Irish, without a conference championship to pad its résumé, would have a tough row to hoe in getting in as a one-loss independent while the Bulldogs could overcome such an early-season loss by winning out the remainder of the regular season and knocking off a team like Alabama or LSU in the SEC title game.  Right now, though, the sportsbooks really like UGA as the Bulldogs are listed as anywhere from a 14- to 15-point favorite as of this posting.
  • All told, there are four games that will see two undefeated teams meet, including the one mentioned above as well as Air Force at No. 20 Boise State Friday night (I’ll address the other two further down). Additionally, there are 11 games featuring undefeateds going up against one-loss teams: No. 1 Clemson (3-0) at Charlotte (2-1); Wake Forest (3-0) at FCS Elon (2-1); Virginia (3-0) at Old Dominion (1-1); Oklahoma State (3-0) at No. 12 Texas (2-1); Utah State (1-1) at San Diego State (3-0); Cal (3-0) at Ole Miss (2-1); Colorado (2-1) at No. 24 Arizona State (3-0); No. 10 Utah (3-0) at USC (2-1); Southern Miss (2-1) at No. 2 Alabama; No. 8 Auburn (3-0) at No. 17 Texas A&M (2-1); and Appalachian State (2-0) at North Carolina (2-1).
  • Let’s get this out there right up front: in no way, shape or form is David Shaw even remotely close to sitting on a stool that’s slightly above room temperature let alone a hot seat.  That said, there has to be some level of concern in the Land of the Tree.  Coming off four straight wins to end the 2018 campaign, hopes were high that the Cardinal would again be deep in the mix in the Pac-12 South race.  A sloppy 10-point win over Northwestern in the opener caused some trepidation; two straight double-digit losses (USC, UCF) — the first time they’ve lost back-to-back games by 18-plus points since 2016 — have raised red flags all over The Farm as the Cardinal’s remaining schedule features games against five teams currently ranked in the Top 25, including No. 16 Oregon this weekend.  A loss to the Ducks would give the Cardinal a 1-3 record to start a season for the first time since 2007, and place in serious jeopardy the program’s streak of 10 straight years with eight-plus wins.
  • How has the 2019 campaign gone for Willie Taggart and his flailing Florida State football program?  Already this season, we’ve seen a bizarre hydration situation play out and a four-year-old’s parent-fueled lemonade stand creation looking to help buy out Taggart’s contract, as well as the addition of Jim Leavitt as a defensive analyst a week ago.  Related to that latter development, FSU’s defense has suffered second-half collapses all three games, two of which resulted in come-from-ahead losses and the other a one-point overtime win over Louisiana-Monroe in Tallahassee.  After halftime — ya know, when coaching adjustments are usually made — the Seminoles have been outscored 75-31; in the two losses, to Boise State and Virginia, it was 38-10.  With a home date against 2-1 Louisville on tap this weekend, this is about as close to a must-win game in Week 4 as you can get; if not, expect to hear a helluva lot more (again) about Taggart’s $17 million buyout in the weeks to come.
  • Can BYU keep the upset Mormentum going and make it three in a row?  The football independent went into Neyland Stadium two weeks ago and added fuel to the dumpster fire that is Tennessee football, then knocked off then-No. 24 USC last Saturday to crank up the heat (again) under Clay Helton‘s seat.  Both of those upsets came in overtime, incidentally. This week should prove to be a much tougher test for BYU as they will play host to No. 22 Washington, whose lone loss of the season thus far came at unbeaten Cal, now ranked No. 23, in Week 2.  At least on paper, this should be a close matchup as the sportsbooks have Washington in the neighborhood of a touchdown favorite.

SIX-PACK OF MUST-SEE GAMES

  • No. 8 Auburn at No. 17 Texas A&M (-3½) — If you’re a fan of offensive fireworks, you might want to find yourself another game.  A&M is tied for 12th nationally in giving up 11.3 points per game, while Auburn is 22nd at 14.3 ppg.  Were it not for A&M’s lone loss to No. 1 Clemson, this would’ve been yet another battle of undefeateds.  The Tigers have won two straight and three of the last four over their SEC West rivals, and have also won all three games in College Station since the Aggies joined the conference.
  • No. 11 Michigan at No. 13 Wisconsin (-3½) — Coming off a bye weekend, unbeaten Wisconsin has yet to allow a point this season.  This isn’t USF or Central Michigan, though, as undefeated Michigan is in the middle of the pack nationally in averaging 32 points a game.  The outcome of the third game featuring two teams with no losses could very well come down to the right arm of Shea Patterson.  The Michigan quarterback has been average at best this season, completing just over 60 percent of his passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns; he’ll need to be much better than fair-to-middling if the Wolverines hope to steal a win in Madison.
  • Oklahoma State at No. 12 Texas (-5½) — This game just missed being another Top 25 matchup as Oklahoma State was second in the “others receiving votes” category in the most recent Associated Press poll.  Texas’ run defense, 24th nationally at 87.3 yards per game, will face a stiff test as OSU’s Chuba Hubbard leads the nation in rushing.  Texas’ pass defense, 125th out of 130 FBS schools, won’t get a rest, either, as OSU’s Tylan Wallace leads the country in receiving yards (390) and receiving touchdowns (six).  Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger, meanwhile, will test a Cowboys defense that’s 75th in passing yards per game (225.3).
  • Colorado at No. 24 Arizona State (-8) — Colorado scored an impressive come-from-behind win over Nebraska in Week 2, then coughed up an overtime loss to underdog Air Force the following week.  Arizona State, meanwhile, capped off an undefeated three-game start to the season with a dramatic win over Michigan State that quite possibly shouldn’t have happened.  The winner of this game, the conference opener for both, will certainly receive an early boost in the race for the Pac-12 South title.  For what it’s worth, the home team has won each of the last four matchups between the schools.
  • No. 10 Utah (-4) at USC — Which USC team will Utah face Friday night, the one that started the season 2-0, including an impressive 25-point win over then-No. 23 Stanford, to move to No. 24 in the rankings or the one that fell to underdog BYU in overtime? A win by the Trojans would be yuge as it would move them to 2-0 in conference play already, with one of those wins coming against the preseason favorite in the South; a loss, especially if it’s in some form or fashion a beatdown, would increase the drumbeat for Clay Helton‘s head on a silver platter.  A win for the Utes, meanwhile, would put a conference road scalp on its résumé for future playoff consideration.
  • SMU at No. 25 TCU (-9½) — Whoever expected this one to be the fourth of the battle of the unbeatens in Week 4, raise your hands.  Now, put all your all’s hands down as y’all are lying.  SMU is 3-0 for the first time since 1984, and could match that season’s 4-0 start with a road win over the Power Five school.  TCU has beaten SMU in seven straight games, with the Mustangs last win coming in 2011.  One area to watch: TCU is 15th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 273, while SMU is giving up just 105.7 ypg.

BEST/WORST WAGERS OF WEEK 4

  • BEST: Wisconsin (-3) at home against Michigan.  Jim Harbaugh is 0-6 in games at Michigan in which he has been an underdog.  U-M is also 1-5 on the road vs. ranked teams under Harbaugh, with those five losses coming by an average of 15.2 points; just one of the five was by less than seven and none were by less than three. Oh, and Wisconsin is simply the better team at this point in time, so give me the Badgers and give up the points.
  • WORST: No. 21 Virginia (+28½) at home against Old Dominion.  The last time Virginia beat a Group of Five team by more than four touchdowns? Sept. 27, 2014, vs. Kent State.  In its six-year history at the FBS level, Old Dominion has seven losses to Power Five programs; of those seven, five have been by less than four touchdowns. Additionally, there’s been one win — over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech last season.  The Cavaliers won’t suffer the same fate as the 2018 Hokies, but they also won’t cover.
  • COVER SPECIAL: No. 19 Washington State (-18½) at home against UCLA. UCLA is a dumpster fire that’s on steroids and all jacked up on Mountain Dew.  The Bruins have lost three straight this season and 12 of 15 overall under Chip Kelly, including a woodshedding at the hands of pass-happy Oklahoma in Week 3.  Wazzu leads the nation in passing, while UCLA is 108th in passing yards allowed per game.  You do the math.

HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH

  1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma (Last week: No. 1) — In the Week 3 rout of UCLA, Hurts became the first OU quarterback ever to pass for 200-plus yards and rush for 100-plus in the first half of a game. 103 of those rushing yards came in the first quarter… and 99 of those came on the first drive of the game.
  2. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (No. 3) — The junior had a career-high with 444 passing yards and tied a career-high with five passing touchdowns in the win over South Carolina. The yards were the third-most in Crimson Tide history.
  3. Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (No. 2) — With 11 touchdown passes in three games this season, Burrow now has 27 in 16 appearances since transferring from Ohio State to LSU; in the two years prior to his arrival, Tiger quarterbacks accounted for 29 in 25 games.
  4. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State (No. 4) — With four scores (three passing, one rushing) in win over Indiana, Fields became just the third Buckeye the last two decades (J.T. Barrett, Dwayne Haskins) to account for at least four total touchdowns in each of their first three games.
  5. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin (No. 5) — Taylor, who was off with the rest of the Badgers in Week 3, has eight touchdowns (five rushing, three receiving) in two games, although his average of 118.5 yards per game is down from his career average of 154 per coming into the season.
  6. Sam Ehlinger, QB, Texas (No. 6) — Ehlinger has thrown 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in three games while completing just over 85 percent of his passes.
  7. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (No. 7) — The preseason Heisman favorite has five interceptions in three games (97 attempts) this season; a year ago as a true freshman, he threw four picks in 15 games (397 attempts).
  8. Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State (unranked) — In the first three starts of his collegiate career, the fifth-year senior has thrown for 420, 464 and 440 yards.
  9. Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State (unranked) — Hubbard currently leads the nation in rushing yards (521) and name awesomeness, and is tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns (seven) with SMU’s Xavier Jones.
  10. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama (No. 10) — After catching 18 passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games, the junior had a quiet statline of 6-68-0 in the romp over South Carolina.

(DROPPED OUT: Oregon QB Justin Herbert (No. 8), Clemson RB Travis Etienne (No.9))

WEEK 4 BRAZEN PREDICTIONS
BRYAN FISCHER (@BryanDFischer): While last week had a number of Top 25 upsets, I’m raising the stakes and will say three top 10 teams go down on Saturday. And if this qualifies as bold, Michigan State finds the end zone three times on offense (and once on D), Rutgers comes close to beating Boston College and Cal-Ole Miss features six turnovers.
ZACH BARNETT (@zach_barnett): Kansas keeps the mojo going and moves into a tie for first place in the Big 12 with a win over West Virginia, thereby winning back-to-back games over Power 5 opponents for the first time since taking four straight over the 2008-09 seasons.
KEVIN MCGUIRE (@KevinOnCFB): Two of the biggest games of the season may take place this weekend. Georgia will bring Notre Dame’s playoff hopes to a crashing halt with a lopsided win in Athens. Take Georgia and the points. In the Big Ten, Michigan’s bye week won’t be enough to refine the new offense and Wisconsin will send them home with a loss, forcing Michigan to chase Ohio State the rest of the season.
JOHN TAYLOR (@CFTalk)
: Coming off a rough (ruff?) Week 3, the ACC will go 9-0 in non-conference play in Week 4, which means that, yes, Pitt knocks off No. 15 UCF at home. The other ACC non-conference matchups this weekend are Boston College at Rutgers; Western Michigan at Syracuse; Elon at Wake Forest; Appalachian State at North Carolina; Central Michigan at Miami; Old Dominion at No. 21 Virginia; Ball State at NC State; and Charlotte at No. 1 Clemson, so it’s not like I’m going out on that much of a limb.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT WATCH
This week, our pals over at Rotoworld zero in on offensive and defensive line matchups in the Notre Dame-Georgia game as pro prospects to watch.  For the entire extensively-detailed piece, click HERE.

Ohio State mourns death of 1955 Heisman winner ‘Hopalong’ Cassady

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One of the greatest Buckeyes ever has passed.

In a press release, Ohio State confirmed that Howard “Hopalong” Cassady passed away early Friday morning at the age of 85.  The Columbus native died in Tampa, Fla., where he had lived the past 45 years.

“We’ve lost not only a legendary Buckeye, but also a wonderful person in Hop Cassady,” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said in a statement. “He was an all-time great Buckeye in every way. We will have the Cassady family in our thoughts and in our prayers.”

Playing his college football for OSU from 1952-55, Cassady put up what was then a school record of 2,466 rushing yards, a total that is still 19th in the program’s history.  In 1954, Cassady helped Woody Hayes win his first national championship; a year later, he became the third Buckeye player to win the Heisman Trophy, joining Les Horvath (1944) and Vic Janowicz (1950).

“He was a Heisman Trophy dad as well,” one of his sons, Craig Cassady, said in a quote distributed by the school.

And as for the two-time All-American’s unique nickname? From the release:

Cassady earned his nickname of Hopalong from Columbus, Ohio, sportswriters during his first game, when he scored three touchdowns in a 33-13 win over Indiana and “hopped all over the field like the performing cowboy,” a reference to the fictional, clean-cut hero, Hopalong Cassidy.

In 1979, Cassady, who also played baseball for the Buckeyes, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

D’Eriq King breaks Tim Tebow TD record, but Houston stunned on last-second TD by Tulane

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Last week, D’Eriq King tied one of the records set by an all-time college football great.  Thursday night, he broke it — and then he and his teammates had their collective hearts broken.

In Houston’s 38-31 loss to Tulane — Green Wave’s come-from-behind win, on the last drive of the game, featured both a trick play and game-winning touchdown pass with just seconds — King accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing).  This marks the 15th straight game in which the Cougars quarterback has accounted for at least one passing and one rushing touchdown in the same game.

King now owns the FBS record for such a streak, breaking the record of 14 in a row previously set by Florida’s Tim Tebow more than a decade ago.

In 15 games the past one-plus seasons, the under-the-radar King has accounted for 62 total touchdowns — 42 passing, 20 rushing.  In an injury-shortened 2018 campaign, King threw for 36 touchdowns and put up 14 on the ground.

Despite the record, it’s likely a night King will want to forget.

In the second quarter, Houston held a seemingly comfortable 28-7 lead, but three Tulane touchdowns over the next quarter and a half tied the game; a field goal with 6:10 left in the AAC matchup gave the Green Wave their first lead of the contest.  With just 21 seconds left, however, the Cougars’ own field goal tied it back up at 31-all and we appeared headed for some extra football.

That, though, is when insanity ensued.

The ensuing kickoff gave Tulane the ball at its own 29-yard line.  Seemingly content to let the clock run out and go into overtime, the Green Wave lined up as if they were just going to take a knee… except they didn’t, with Amare Jones taking a handoff and scampering 18 yards 15 seconds left…

… and then, on the very next play, Justin McMillan hit Jalen McCleskey for a 53-yard catch-and-run, aided greatly by poor tackling on the part of the Cougars, that proved to be the game-winning score with just three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Suffice to say, Houston’s first-year head coach was far from pleased with how the game played out.

The Cougars are now 1-3 on the season — after firing their head coach, Major Applewhite, for having the audacity to go 8-5 last season — while the Green Wave improved to 3-1.

That 1-3 start, incidentally, is UH’s worst since 2012.

Availability of QB Michael Penix for Indiana vs. UConn remains uncertain

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Whether Indiana is without its starting quarterback yet again for this weekend’s non-conference game remains to be seen.

In the days leading up to the Week 3 game against Ohio State, Michael Penix was listed as a game-time decision because of an unspecified injury; he was subsequently ruled out of what became a Hoosiers loss to the Buckeyes.  Earlier this week, Tom Allen indicated that Penix could again be a game-time decision; with the Week 4 matchup with UConn fast approaching, the quarterback’s status remains decidedly murky.

“We’ll probably know more… [Friday], when we do some things with him in terms of evaluation-wise that will help us a lot to get a gauge,” the head coach said. “Don’t know exactly the status for Saturday yet, but we should know more pretty soon.”

While the football program has yet to divulge the specific nature, it’s believed Penix is dealing with a right knee injury as he was seen watching warmups prior to the OSU game with a brace encasing that joint.

Penix won the starting job over the incumbent Peyton Ramsey coming out of summer camp last month.  In his first two career starts, the redshirt freshman, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last October, has completed just over 63 percent of his passes for 523 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions as IU has jumped out to a 2-0 start to the season.  He’s also run the ball nine times for another 79 yards.

Ramsey started all 12 games for IU last season as a redshirt sophomore, including one against OSU in which he passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Buckeyes.  In 2018, Ramsey completed exactly 66 percent of his 447 passes for 2,875 yards, 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

The second start against OSU didn’t go nearly as well for Ramsey as he completed less than 58 percent of his 33 passes for 162 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.