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No. 13 UCF extends nation’s longest winning streak to 17 after thumping Pitt

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Earlier this week, College Football Playoff Executive Director Bill Hancock sent a jolt of excitement through the hearts of fans in Central Florida by confirming there is a path for No. 13 UCF to make the playoff at the end of the year. Essentially it came down to one thing: keep winning.

So far so good for the Knights as they extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 17 by beating Pitt 45-14, capturing the program’s third win over a Power Five program in the past two seasons in the process.

As the score line indicated, the game was quite lopsided and the only sign of life from the Panthers most of the afternoon came on an 86-yard punt return for a score by Rafael Araujo-Lopes in the first quarter. Outside of that mistake on special teams, UCF lived up to their top 15 ranking and clearly were the better side in all three phases.

Quarterback McKenzie Milton continued to float around in the fringes of the Heisman Trophy conversation by throwing for 328 yards during a somewhat uneven outing with four touchdowns through the air and another two more scores on the ground to go with his 51 yards rushing. The electric dual-threat from Hawaii didn’t have his best of days against Pitt’s defense but the Knights still averaged over seven yards per play and punted just twice.

It wasn’t a bad day for his teammates on the other side of the ball either. Despite being on the field quite a bit due to all those quick scoring drives, UCF racked up three sacks and had a constant presence in the backfield. Panthers QB Kenny Pickett threw for only 163 yards (1 TD, 1 INT) and Qadree Ollison managed just 49 yards rushing to pace his team in that category.

The loss dropped Pat Narduzzi’s group to 2-3 on the season and it could be awhile before they find the win column again with Syracuse, Notre Dame and Duke on the docket next month.

As for UCF, the flip side might ring true for that program as the win streak looks like it will be awhile before it ends. Given how the AAC has looked relatively lackluster through the first month of the season, it could well be November before this team is truly tested after making things look easy once again in their only test against a Power Five opponent. With former coach Scott Frost struggling to even muster a single victory at Nebraska this year, his old team seems to have not lost a beat down in Orlando as they look again like the Group of Five’s best.

LSU opens as double-digit favorites on Oklahoma; Ohio State slight underdog to Clemson

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While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.

Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released.  LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl.  No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship.  Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1.  Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.

Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners.  Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.

The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.

LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004.  Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.

Arkansas confirms hiring of Georgia OL coach Sam Pittman as head coach

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When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.

Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman.  A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.

“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.

“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”

The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach.  He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.

The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.

Mizzou zeroing in on Eli Drinkwitz as next head coach

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Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.

Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”

An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.

The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football.  App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.

Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.

Georgia WR Dominick Blaylock reportedly suffered ACL tear in SEC title game loss

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A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.

As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.

Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.