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No. 19 Texas stays in Big 12 race with win over Texas Tech

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Even despite heartbreaking back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and No. 9 West Virginia, No. 19 Texas entered Saturday with a path to reach the Big 12 Championship. That path required three straight wins to close the year and a WVU win over No. 6 Oklahoma on Black Friday.

It wasn’t easy, but Step 1 of the plan is completed when the Longhorns pulled off a 41-34 win at Texas Tech.

When Sam Ehlinger hit Devin Duvernay for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter, Texas seemingly had the game in hand, taking a 34-17 lead.

But Texas Tech (5-5, 3-4 Big 12) lodged a Clayton Hatfield field goal to make it a two-score game, then stole a possession by pegging Texas safety PJ Locke with an onside kick, recovered by Texas Tech. A pass interference penalty helped the Red Raiders convert a 4th-and-10, and Texas Tech pulled within 34-27 with 4:47 to play on a 2-yard pass from Jett Duffey to TJ Vasher.

Trailing 34-27 now, the Red Raider defense forced a three-and-out to give the ball back to a white-hot Duffey, who tied the game with 1:45 remaining on a 9-yard strike to Antoine Wesley.

In a similar position as the Oklahoma win, Texas (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat-by-epic collapse, moving 75 yards in seven plays. Ehlinger hit his favorite target, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, for a 29-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left to seal the win. Humphrey finished the game eight catches, seemingly all of them clutch, for 159 yards and two touchdowns, while Ehlinger was 22-of-34 for 312 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, in the process breaking Geno Smith‘s Big 12 record with 274 passes (and counting) without an interception.

Though he threw for a career-high 442 yards, Duffey helped Texas built its 17-point lead thanks to three red zone turnovers. Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Duffey threw away a potential 14-0 lead when, rather than eat the ball after an errant snap, Duffey attempted to allude Texas safety Caden Sterns and fire a pass, which was intercepted by Davante Davis.

Given new life, Texas mounted its first drive, aided by two third down completions from Sam Ehlinger to Humphrey, first for 15 yards, then for 40. The second gained pushed the ball to the Red Raider 24, but consecutive sacks forced a career-long 52-yard Cameron Dicker field goal.

After forcing a Texas Tech punt, Texas again mounted a methodical, 18-play, 8-minute drive down the field until two more consecutive sacks backed the ‘Horns up from the Texas Tech 11 to the 34. However, during a 7-yard completion to Humphrey on 3rd-and-33, Texas Tech was flagged for a face mask on the complete opposite side of the field. Rather than kick a 44-yard field goal, Texas was given a 1st-and-10 at the Texas Tech 13. The Longhorns converted this time, as Ehlinger again found Humphrey on another third down, securing a 9-yard touchdown to put Texas up 10-7 with 3:46 left in the first half.

Facing his first deficit, Kliff Kingsbury decided to roll the dice deep inside his own territory. After Ward was corralled for a 1-yard gain on 3rd-and-2, Kingsbury put Duffey under center at his own 34 and called for a sneak — which was stuffed.

Texas took advantage of the short field, needing three plays to set up a 1-yard Keaontay Ingram touchdown run with 1:16 left in the first half.

Texas Tech halted UT’s 17 straight points when Clayton Hatfield snuck in a 41-yard field goal with seven seconds left before halftime.

Texas opened the second half with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, scoring on a fourth-and-goal 1-yard pass from Ehlinger to Duvernay.

Duffey then committed the second of his three turnovers when, going out of bounds at the Texas 19, he was stripped by Davis, who immediately recovered the ball. Texas turned the opportunity into another Dicker field goal. Trailing 27-10 in the third quarter, Duffey again was stripped inside the Texas red zone, this time by Texas cornerback Kris Boyd.

Texas punted after that turnover, and Duffey made up for his latest turnover by hitting Wesley over Boyd for a 57-yard touchdown pass, pulling the Red Raiders within 27-17 with 13:26 remaining. The Longhorns answered that score with a 5-play, 92-yard drive capped by the throw to Duvernay, seemingly putting the game away with 10:26 to play.

Florida State names James Blackman starting QB over Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook

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In this case, the transfer pastures weren’t any greener for a signal-caller — two, actually — who moved on from his first college football home.

Alex Hornibrook left Wisconsin this offseason and ultimately landed at Florida State as a graduate transfer.  Jordan Travis took his leave of Louisville earlier this year and ended up transferring to FSU; Travis was ultimately granted an immediate-eligibility waiver.

With those twin under-center developments, Willie Taggart and the Seminoles navigated a three-headed quarterback competition during the spring and on into summer camp: Hornibrook, Travis and one-time starter James Blackman.  Sunday night, FSU announced that Blackman is its QB1 heading into the opener against Boise State this coming Saturday night.

The naming of Blackman as the starter continues what’s been a roller coaster ride for the redshirt sophomore.

Blackman, who himself placed his name into the transfer portal earlier this year before undergoing a change of heart, started most of the 2017 season due to an injury to starter Deondre Francois, who regained the job in 2018 only to be dismissed from the football program in February of this year.

Blackman was a three-star member of FSU’s 2017 recruiting class. After Francois went down with what turned out to be a season-ending injury in the opener that year, Blackman started the remaining 12 games as a true freshman.  Francois returned as the starter for the vast majority of the 2018 season, missing one game in early November because of a concussion.  Blackman started the lone game Francois didn’t, throwing for 421 yards and four touchdowns in a loss to NC State.

In that initial season in 2017, Blackman completed almost 60 percent of his 297 passes for 2,230 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  He was able to take a redshirt for this past season despite playing in four games.

Hornibrook, who battled concussion issues the latter half of the 2018 season but was cleared for winter workouts in January, spent the past three seasons as the Badgers’ starting quarterback.  In games in which Hornibrook started during that span, Wisconsin went 26-6.

In 35 career games played with the Badgers, Hornibrook passed for 5,438 yards, 47 touchdowns and 33 interceptions.

This coming season is Hornibrook’s final year of eligibility.

Travis, whose older brother played baseball at FSU a few years ago, was a three-star member of the Cardinals’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 25 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  As a true freshman this past season, Jackson completed four-of-nine passes for 71 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Because he played in four or fewer games this past year, he took a redshirt for the 2018 season.

Calamity averted: Washington State flag’s College GameDay streak reaches 225 straight

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Courtesy of some expected common sense, a potential national nightmare was averted earlier this weekend.

Along with Lee Corso, one of the constants you can count on seeing when you turn on ESPN‘s College GameDay Saturday mornings during the football season is the Washington State flag flying somewhere in the crowd, regardless of from where the show originates.  Ol’ Crimson first appeared around the GameDay set in Austin on Oct. 4, 2003, and has made it to every show since, a streak of 224 straight appearances.

Unfortunately, there was some serious concern earlier this month that the streak wouldn’t make it to 225.

ESPN announced Aug. 13 that College GameDay would set up camp and televise its popular pregame show from Walt Disney World ahead of the Week 0 Florida-Miami matchup at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium Aug. 24.  In a cruel and potentially streak-ending twist, the Magic Kingdom’s rules prohibit, among other things, flags from being flown on the Walt Disney World Resort Property.

All was right with the world in the end, though, as Ol’ Crimson was indeed front and center ahead of what would turn out to be a Gators win over the Hurricanes as, not surprisingly, Disney bent its rules regarding not only flags but signs as well.

From the Spokesman-Review:

Hey, look at this,” ESPN’s Rece Davis said as the flag was shown. “Look who made it into the Magic Kingdom.”

“The streak’s alive,” Kirk Herbstreit said.

“I want to point out, too, the streak is legit and authentic,” Davis added. “Now, we’ll cooperate with our friends, but Washington State has to do its part and they have.”

Herbstreit chimed in: “They’ve made big efforts throughout this streak and they made another one today.”

“Congrats to the Cougs,” ESPN’s Desmond Howard said.

Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick doesn’t sense momentum for CFB Playoff expansion

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We’re at the dawn of a new season in college football but for a lot of folks, the upcoming campaign is a lot more about the ending than the beginning. We’re talking of course about the thing that dominates the debate in the sport for much of the fall: the College Football Playoff.

Though it seems like we’re stuck at four teams in the postseason event for the foreseeable future, expansion of the playoff is a topic that seems like a never ending well. Most want it, but few in power seem to be pushing for it.

That point was reiterated this week by Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick. The leader of a program who made last year’s edition of the final four and one of the more powerful people in college athletics recently told the South Bend Tribune that he doesn’t see a move to six or eight teams in the event anytime soon.

I don’t want to speculate on that. I don’t sense a lot of momentum,” Swarbrick said. “But again, this is a group of individuals who cares about college football and think about it all the time. And so that’s all you want, a process where people are always talking about how to make the game better. But I don’t sense any particular momentum for change right now.”

If anybody would have some insight into the thought process regarding expansion, it’s bound to be Swarbrick — who sits on the CFP Management Committee and has his school president on the overarching CFP Board of Managers.

Perhaps something will change by 2025 when the postseason contract comes up with ESPN but until then, get used to four teams.

Missouri AD Jim Sterk is even more mad about NCAA penalties after Mississippi State case

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At some point in the distant future, Missouri fans, coaches, players and administrators will forget about the sanctions that the NCAA handed out to their football program.

That day is not today however.

Hot on the heels of Friday’s decision by the NCAA to slap the wrist of Mississippi State over a somewhat similar academic fraud case, Tigers AD Jim Sterk is telling anybody who will listen just how wronged his school was in the wake of what happened at his SEC rival.

“We believe that the penalties imposed in the recently decided and factually similar case (at Mississippi State) further illustrate that the penalties imposed on Mizzou were excessive and inconsistent with previous case precedent,” Sterk told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We have never wavered from our stance or the merits of our appeal and remain hopeful it will be successful.”

The Tigers are hopeful that an appeal will be decided in the fairly near future and, obviously, that it will be a favorable ruling.

There are a handful of differences between Mizzou’s and the Bulldogs’ cases and enough to make comparing them apples to oranges despite being under the broad umbrella of academic fraud. We’ll see what ultimately ends up happening but something says that short of a complete reversal, Tigers fans and others sporting the gold and black won’t be happy with the NCAA for a long, long time.