Associated Press

No. 15 Texas wins de facto Big 12 semifinal over No. 16 Iowa State, loses Sam Ehlinger

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There were three major developments in Saturday night’s game between No. 15 Texas and No. 16 Iowa State and the Big 12 title race as a whole, and two of them happened before the game even started.

The first happened last week, when Iowa State running back David Montgomery was ejected from the Cyclones’ win over Baylor for fighting, which triggered an automatic suspension for the first half of Saturday night’s game.

The second occurred an hour before the game started and 450 miles north of Austin, when Oklahoma State upset No. 9 West Virginia. That stunner turned Saturday night’s game into a de facto Big 12 semifinal where, regardless of the outcome of West Virginia’s game with No. 6 Oklahoma Friday night in Morgantown, the winner between Iowa State and Texas would control their own destiny to reach the Big 12 title game.

The second major development came on the final play from scrimmage of the first half. Scrambling toward the Iowa State end zone, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger put his head down in an attempt to power toward the first down marker. He was stopped short and, worse, took a shot to the same right, throwing shoulder that knocked him out of UT’s win over Baylor on Oct. 13. Ehlinger remained in uniform and threw warm-up passes on the sideline but did not return.

While that was obviously bad news for Texas (8-3, 6-2 Big 12), the good news is that the Longhorns dominated the game with and without its star quarterback. Ehlinger’s scramble helped put the Longhorns up 17-3, and a 27-yard touchdown pass from backup Shane Buechele to Lil'Jordan Humphrey with 36 seconds left in the third quarter put the game on ice as Texas cruised to an easier-than-expected 24-10 win.

Before the Ehlinger injury, the sophomore quarterback was once again excellent. Texas jumped out to an early lead, rolling 80 yards in nine plays and scoring on a 7-yard Ehlinger run.

The Cyclones (6-4, 5-3 Big 12) answered with a field goal but, after a pair of punts, the Longhorns moved 94 yards in 10 plays to push the lead to 11, scoring on a 19-yard swing pass from Ehlinger to running back Keaontay Ingram to put Texas up 14-3 with 9:53 left in the first half. He finished the game 12-of-15 for 137 yards and a touchdown with 32 rushing yards and another score, continuing his Big 12 record streak of consecutive passes without an interception.

The absence of Montgomery and the early deficit put the game in Brock Purdy‘s hands, and for the first time in his young career the Iowa State freshman looked like a freshman. He was 10-of-23 passing for 130 yards with an interception and was sacked five times before leaving the game in the fourth quarter due to injury. Hakeem Butler posted six grabs for 99 yards, but no other Iowa State wideout posted more than 14 receiving yards. By the time Montgomery entered the game, the Cyclones trailed by 14 and had failed to establish any sort of a rhythm. He finished 10 carries for 33 yards and a garbage-time touchdown with 1:33 remaining and Iowa State trailing by 21.

With Ehlinger’s status unknown moving forward, the Texas offense still clicked on all cylinders. Tre Watson carried 13 times for 84 yards, including a 39-yard run that was the longest among any Longhorn this season, and Buechele completed all 10 of his passes for 89 yards and a score. Humphrey caught seven passes for 86 yards and the score, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark on the season.

Ehlinger did not miss any time after suffering the Grade 1 AC sprain that knocked him out of the Baylor game, but Texas was off the following week. The Longhorns play Friday at Kansas and the stakes are the same regardless of who plays quarterback — a win puts them back in the Big 12 Championship.

Kentucky’s Josh Allen adds fourth national trophy honor

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When it’s all said and done, Josh Allen is going to need a bigger trophy cabinet — or at least significantly expand his current one.

Monday, it was announced that the Kentucky senior was named as the 2018 recipient of the Jack Lambert Award. That trophy is handed out annually by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (OH) and given to the national linebacker of the year.

Previously this awards season, Allen had been named as the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Award (HERE) and Chuck Bednarik Award (HERE) as well as the recipient of the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy (HERE). He also earned unanimous first-team All-American honors.

Allen’s 14 sacks this season set the football program’s single-season record, while his 28.5 career sacks are the most ever for a member of the Wildcats.

Utah State OC Troy Taylor named head coach at FCS Sacramento State

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For the second time since the 2018 regular season came to an end, Kyle Whittingham has seen one of his assistant coaches leave for a head-coaching job.

Exactly a week ago, Utah State announced that Utah associate head coach Gary Andersen was returning to again lead the Aggies.  Monday, Sacramento State announced that Troy Taylor has been hired as the FCS program’s next head football coach.

Taylor, who spent two seasons as Whittingham’s offensive coordinator, was the starting quarterback at Cal in the late eighties after playing his high school football in the state of California.  He also began his coaching career at the high school level near Sacramento.

“I am thrilled to be the new head football coach at Sacramento State,” Taylor said in a statement. “My family and I are excited to move back home and take on the challenge of building the Hornet Football program into something the city can be very proud. I want to thank President Nelsen, Mark Orr and the rest of the search committee for giving me this opportunity.”

With bowl season left, Utah is sixth in the Pac-12 and 67th nationally in scoring 28.7 points per game.  In Taylor’s first season in charge of the offense, they averaged 29.5 ppg.

Whittingham has already replaced Andersen with former Ute football player Sione Po’uha.

Nick Saban says Tua Tagovailoa ‘probably ahead of schedule’ in recovery from ankle surgery

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One of the biggest storylines leading into the 2018 College Football Playoff is the health of this year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up.  With Alabama’s date with Oklahoma less than two weeks away, the signs are pointing in a positive direction for Tua Tagovailoa.

The sophomore quarterback suffered a high-ankle sprain in Alabama’s SEC championship game win over Georgia two weeks ago and underwent surgery shortly thereafter to help aid the healing process.  Monday, Nick Saban sounded decidedly optimistic in giving an update on the status of his starter, who has participated at least partly in all four of the Crimson Tide’s practice session since the title game.

“He’s doing well,” the head coach said by way of ESPN.com. “I think he’s probably ahead of schedule. He’s been able to take a lot of reps. He’s been able to throw the ball from the pocket. He can run. …

“I don’t think he’s 100 percent in terms of change of direction yet. But he’s already going 100 percent on the gravity treadmill. So he’s been able to practice and he’s made really, really good progress. So we’re encouraged by that.”

Tagovailoa had been bothered by knee issues for a sizable chunk of the regular season before hurting his left ankle earlier this month.

Top-ranked Alabama will face Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray and Oklahoma in the Dec. 29 Orange Bowl, which this season is serving as one of the two playoff semifinals.  The winner of that game will face the Notre Dame-Clemson in the national championship game next month.

Justin Fields’ family says QB ‘hasn’t made a decision’ to transfer from Georgia

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Maybe the future quarterback situation in Athens isn’t as straightforward and black and white as it seemed earlier in the evening.

Monday night, it was reported that Justin Fields has notified Georgia of his intent to transfer.  Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Fields is exploring the possibility of transferring, though he hasn’t yet told the Bulldogs’ coaching staff that he’s leaving.”

Additionally, at least one member of Fields’ family told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a decision hasn’t been made one way or the other.

Asked if she could confirm reports that her son intends to transfer from Georgia, Fields’ stepmother said she could not. But she also didn’t deny them.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss anything,” Jo Ann Claudrick Fields said via telephone Monday night. “We’re not confirming or denying anything. We haven’t made a decision.

Fields’ mother also told the Journal-Constitution to talk to the quarterback’s father, Ivant Fields, as “[h]e handles everything involving football.”

If the transfer were to come to fruition, ESPN reported that Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma would be potential landing spots.  That website also reports that Fields is expected to play in the Sugar Bowl for the Bulldogs.

Fields was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 1 player regardless of position in the Class of 2018.  He spent his true freshman season as the primary backup to sophomore starter Jake Fromm.