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No. 25 LSU runs away from No. 8 Miami

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After a 2017 season that saw the Hurricanes start 10-0, including those back-to-back wins over top-15 Virginia Tech and Notre Dame teams, and finish 0-3 with back-to-back-to-back double-digit losses, the goal, the hope, for No. 8 Miami entering Sunday night was to show that 2018 would be more about the first 10 and not the last three.

The first 30 minutes of Sunday night’s game showed that plan to be unfounded. No. 25 LSU opened up a 27-3 halftime lead and cruised to a 33-17 statement win at AT&T Stadium in suburban Dallas.

Before the game turned into a blowout, though, there was a moment when Miami appeared to have the upper hand. That’s all it was, a moment, but it happened. Tied 3-3 late in the first quarter, Miami moved from its own 30 to the LSU 32, but the drive sputtered and freshman kicker Bubba Baxa‘s 45-yard field goal sailed wide right.

Then the rout was on.

Nick Brossette registered LSU’s first touchdown with a 50 yard burst straight through the middle of Miami’s defense.

After forcing a three-and-out, LSU scored on another Brossette run, a 1-yarder, which was set up by a 22-yard connection from Joe Burrow to Ja'Marr Chase which appeared to fall incomplete on second glance, but the Tigers were able to snap the ball before the replay official could intervene.

With the score at 20-3 midway through the second quarter, Malik Rosier made a mistake that buried the Hurricanes for good when he didn’t see LSU linebacker Jacob Phillips lying in wait for his slant pass, and Phillips raced the interception 45 yards for a touchdown.

Staked to a 24-point halftime lead, Ed Orgeron took the air out of the ball in the second half — not that the Tigers were slinging it around to begin with — and the Bayou Bengals managed just the third and fourth of Cole Tracy‘s field goals, a transfer who last played at tiny Division II Assumption College in Massachusetts.

A pair of Rosier touchdowns, a 3-yard run with 13:57 to go and a 32-yard strike to Brian Hightower with 8:43 remaining, allowed Miami to cling to a slight glimmer of hope when taking over at its own 5 with 6:30 remaining to chip away at a two possession deficit. Rosier maneuvered the Canes from the shadow of their own goal post to the LSU 40, but Rosier tossed three straight incompletions and then was sacked on 4th-and-10 with 4:40 to play, allowing LSU to shut the door on any possibility of a UCLA-over-Texas A&M Labor Day Sunday redux.

LSU’s offense didn’t jump off the page, as the Tigers achieved only 17 first downs and converted just 3-of-16 third downs. Burrow was a workmanlike 11-of-24 for 140 yards, and Brossette led all runners with 22 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns. But the Tigers didn’t need to be spectacular to win on Sunday; capitalizing on Miami’s plethora of offensive and special teams mistakes proved to be more than enough. Rosier tossed two interceptions and Zach Feagles averaged just 36.4 yards on five punts.

Rosier battled through the entire game, hitting 15-of-35 passes for 257 yards while being credited with 15 carries for 12 yards. DeeJay Dallas led Miami in rushing with 38 yards on eight carries.

LSU opens its home schedule next week with Southeastern Louisiana before beginning its SEC gauntlet with a trip to No. 9 Auburn on Sept. 15 (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). The Tigers team that took the field Saturday night flashed plenty of potential to win 10 or more games, but a schedule that includes No. 3 Georgia and Florida in addition to a more-ferocious-than-ever SEC West will make them earn it.

Miami, meanwhile, plays a schedule that could still see the Canes reach double-digit wins again. Mark Richt‘s team gets Florida State at home and does not face No. 2 Clemson. But Sunday night’s result shows a potential 10-win season would once again be a mirage.

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.