Associated Press

Sam Ehlinger leads Texas past Kansas State in double OT

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Sam Ehlinger made his third start at quarterback for Texas on Saturday night. He earned the right to make a whole lot more.

The true freshman from Austin led Texas from two 10-point deficits and a fourth quarter hole to overcome Kansas State, 40-34 in double overtime. He carried Texas on his back for almost the entire game, plus two extra frames, hitting 30-of-50 throws for 380 yards with two touchdowns and one interception while leading the ‘Horns with 107 yards on 20 carries.

But before Ehlinger could have his triumph, he had to have his struggle. His first throw of the game was intercepted, and an incomplete pass on fourth-and-goal set up a 10-0 Kansas State lead in the second quarter.

Kansas State took advantage of Ehlinger’s fourth down misfire with an 82-yard play-action strike from Jesse Ertz to Dalton Schoen (a game-high five grabs for 128 yards and two touchdowns), completing a 14-point swing from 7-3 Texas to 10-0 Kansas State.

Texas also faced a 10-point deficit at 17-7 but roared back to close the second half with two straight touchdown drives, the last of which closed on a 1-yard Porter run with 16 seconds left before the half to give the Longhorns a 21-17 lead at the break.

The Longhorns opened the half with a stop and seemed in position to notch a third straight touchdown drive until Chris Warren, who caught a 33-yard touchdown in the first half, dropped a shovel pass on 3rd-and-3, forcing Texas to settle for a 34-yard Joshua Rowland field goal.

Kansas State marched the field on its next possession, keyed by an injury to Ertz. Ertz left the game with a dinged elbow and was replaced by spark plug backup Alex Delton, who rushed for the final 19 yards of the drive to tie it at 24-24 with 3:37 to play in the third quarter, then carried the share of the load on a 74-yard march to set up Matthew McCrane‘s second field goal of the game at the 12:19 mark of the fourth quarter

Texas put together yet another lengthy drive, killing half the available time, but Texas stalled in the red zone and Rowland’s game-tying 27-yard chip shot sailed wide right. Kansas State put its offense on the field, up 27-24 with 5:43 to play, but, rather than putting the game away, the Wildcats punted the ball away after a three-and-out.

Ehlinger passed or rushed on every one of Texas’s 11 plays for 52 yards, moving from the Texas 31 to the K-State 17 and setting up Rowland’s redemption chance from 34 yards out, which he made to tie the game at 27-27 with 1:37 to play.

Ertz (12-of-18 for 224 yards) replaced Delton for Kansas State’s final drive of regulation, but the Wildcats’ push to win the game in regulation ended in a deep interception to Texas safety DeShon Elliott, his fifth pick in his last three games.

Ehlinger, again, accounted for all 39 Texas yards to move Rowland in position for a 45-yard game winner with six seconds left and he, again, missed it.

Texas accepted the ball to open overtime and scored on its first snap, a 25-yard strike from Ehlinger to Jerrod Heard. Kansas State needed only four plays to answer. Alex Barnes rushed for 20 yards to give the Wildcats a first-and-goal, and Delton pushed the game to double overtime with his second rushing score. Despite not playing at all until the fourth quarter, Delton led the Wildcats with 79 yards on 12 carries while hitting 2-of-5 passes for 30 yards.

Kansas State (3-2, 1-1 Big 12) briefly secured a first-and-goal at the top of the second overtime, but two holding calls and an incomplete passed forced a 53-yard field goal try for McCrane, who missed it off the left upright.

With its third chance to win the game, Texas (3-2, 2-0 Big 12) secured the win when Warren carried a mass of humanity into the end zone on third-and-goal from the two.

Though Ehlinger looked every bit like the Next Big Thing in Austin, Texas has had a lot of Next Big Things since Colt McCoyGarrett GilbertDavid AshTyrone SwoopesJerrod Heard and, yes, Shane Buechele each had their moments, but that’s all they turned out to be — moments. Ehlinger will have to prove his moment can turn into a movement, first in practice and then starting again with next week’s opponent: Oklahoma.

How much does Tua Tagovailoa’s injury actually impact Alabama and the College Football Playoff? Not as much as you’d think

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Since the moment Tua Tagovailoa went down with a season-ending injury on Saturday, the focus of the bigger College Football Playoff picture has been hotly debated. Should Alabama be given the benefit of the doubt? Would Alabama with one loss and no SEC title and no Tua be more deserving of a playoff shot over a one-loss Pac-12 champion? How does a potential 1-loss Alabama compare to some other 1-loss teams in the country right now, including Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma, Penn State and, of course, Georgia?

We are in the time of the season when hypothetical scenarios are the most fun to rationally discuss debate with great intensity explore for the fun of it, and this new Alabama situation is a wrinkle we haven’t exactly seen since the inaugural College Football Playoff with Ohio State. As it turns out, Ohio State is the prime example Alabama fans and defenders will point to as one of their top arguments. Of course, 2014 Ohio State and 2019 Alabama are still very different situations.

In 2014, Ohio State lost starting quarterback Braxton Miller to an early season-ending injury but managed to get through the regular season with just one early loss with J.T. Barrett stepping in to guide the Buckeyes offense. But Barrett was injured in the regular-season finale and Cardale Jones had to keep things rolling. Ohio State demolished Wisconsin 59-0 in the Big Ten championship game and convinced the College Football Playoff selection committee they were still worthy of a playoff bid over a pair of 1-loss Big 12 champions (Baylor and TCU) even with their injury concerns at quarterback. This precedent would seem to favor Alabama. Although the Tide may not be as deep at quarterback as Ohio State certainly was, there is an embarrassing amount of riches around the rest of the roster thanks to top recruiting class after top recruiting class being signed by Nick Saban.

There is just one major problem for Alabama. They aren’t likely to get a shot at playing for the SEC championship and prove their case one final time. LSU would have to lose its final two games in order to open the door to the SEC Championship Game for Alabama, and that assumes Alabama wins at Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Alabama (and Ohio State) have made the playoff without winning their divisions before, but this year’s field could be a bit too crowded to allow for that possibility to happen again.

Alabama is in the toughest spot it has been in during the College Football Playoff era. The only team to play in each College Football Playoff, Alabama still has a shot at playing in the playoff once again. At least one team currently ranked ahead of them is going to lose. If it’s Georgia and Alabama stands firm on its ranking, that could see Alabama slide into the fourth spot. But if the season ends with undefeated champions in the ACC (Clemson), Big Ten (Ohio State) and SEC (LSU) and 1-loss champions in the Pac-12 (Oregon or Utah) and Big 12 (Oklahoma or Baylor), how exactly would Alabama compare with no more than one top 25 win? With or without Tua, Alabama should be in some danger of being left out of the playoff for the first time.

And that doesn’t even account for the scenarios that see Penn State beat Ohio State and both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes end the year with one loss. In that case, Ohio State would still be more worthy of a top-four spot than Alabama, and they may not even make it under these conditions. And if Georgia beats LSU in the SEC title game and both teams end the year with one loss, they’d each get in the playoff before Alabama.

Simply put, Alabama’s playoff odds are probably not as drastically impacted by Tagovailoa’s injury as it is being presented. Alabama would still probably need some help no matter if Tagovailoa or Joe Namath was playing quarterback. It may not be too much help that is needed, but some help would absolutely be welcome in Tuscaloosa.

On Tuesday night, however, we’ll get our first taste of just how this injury to Tagovailoa impacts Alabama in the playoff race. The selection committee will release its third set of rankings this season and determine just where Alabama sits in the pack. Alabama fell to No. 5 after their loss to LSU, firmly keeping the Tide in the hunt. They still managed to control their game against Mississippi State this weekend, but other contenders had good performances as well (see: Oregon, Utah, Oklahoma). Alabama is also still lacking a top 25 win the way a few other 1-loss teams now own (see: Oklahoma, Penn State, Minnesota).

How will the committee react? We’re about to find out Tuesday night.

American sticking with 8-game conference schedule, no divisions in 2020-21

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With UConn about to unceremoniously depart the American Athletic Conference to live life as an FBS independent and realign with their old Big East basketball family, the American Athletic Conference was in need of figuring out how to adjust the schedule for football beginning next season. It has done just that.

The AAC announced on Monday how the football schedule will work for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The 11-team conference will stick with an 8-game schedule and rotate the schedule around to every team in the conference will face each other conference member at least once over the next two seasons. Each school will get four home conference games and play four more on the road. On top of that, there will be no divisions in the conference.

“This scheduling model provides balance and competitive equity and will contribute to the exciting seasons to which we have become accustomed in the American Athletic Conference,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a released statement. “It is a fair model that was unanimously supported by our athletic directors.”

The AAC has not shared details on how the two teams to participate in the AAC championship game will be determined, although the simple answer is the top two teams in the standings will get to play. But tiebreakers may have to be re-evaluated with the new scheduling format just to cover all of the bases.

This format is only mapped out for the next two seasons, so it remains to be seen what will happen in 2022 and beyond. This does leave room for the possibility of adding a 12th member to return to a division format if that is desired by the conference. At this point, there has never been a peep that suggested the AAC was interested in adding a 12th member, but that is something that can always change on any given day ending in “Y.” Or perhaps the conference will just reshuffle the conference schedule again for the next two seasons after 2021.

Semi-finalists for Ray Guy Award announced, but missing last year’s winner

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Who is the best punter in the land? According to the Ray Guy Award, there are now 10 players left in the running for that title in the 2019 season.

This year’s semi-finalists for the Ray Guy Award are Oscar Bradburn (Virginia Tech), Joseph Charlton (South Carolina), Max Duffy (Kentucky), Tyson Dyer (New Mexico), Sterling Hofrichter (Syracuse), Adam Korsak (Rutgers), Dane Roy (Houston), Tommy Townsend (Florida), Michael Turk (Arizona State), Owen White (Navy).

Somehow, last year’s winner, Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, didn’t make the cut. Mann is third in the nation in punting average (48.21 yards per punt). Not exactly sure how that happened, but there will be a new Ray Guy Award winner this season as a result of this slip form the award’s committee.

John Mackey Award names eight semi-finalists for top tight end award

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Eight of the nation’s top tight ends were officially named semi-finalists for this season’s John Mackey Award on Monday. The award, named after Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end and former Syracuse player John Mackey, is presented to the nation’s top tight-end as determined by a select voting panel.

This year’s semi-finalists are:

  • Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic
  • Hunter Bryant, Washington
  • Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
  • Brevin Jordan, Miami
  • Charlie Kolar, Iowa State
  • Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri
  • Colby Parkinson, Stanford
  • Giovanni Ricci, Western Michigan

A couple of notable omissions from this list stand out. Florida’s Kyle Pitts, who has the second-most receptions and fifth-most receiving yards among the nation’s tight ends somehow slipped through the voters here. The sophomore for the Gators has averaged 4.2 receptions per game and has accounted for 566 yards and five touchdowns for the Gators. No other tight end in the SEC has more yards per game than Pitts. Penn State’s Pat Freiemuth being omitted was also slightly surprising. Freiermuth has seven touchdowns, easily more than any other Big Ten tight end this season and tied for third-most in the conference this season.

Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson won the John Mackey Award in 2018. Other past winners of the award include Dallas Clark of Iowa, Tyler Eiffert of Notre Dame, Jake Butt of Michigan, Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, and Aaron Hernandez of Florida.

This year’s Mackey Award winner will be announced on Dec. 11th.