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 confirms addition of Troy transfer QB Sawyer Smith

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It’s now officially official.

In late April, Sawyer Smith took his first step in moving on from Troy by announcing on social media that he had placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  Two weeks later, the quarterback used social media to reveal that his next stop at the collegiate level would be at Kentucky.

Monday, Smith’s expected new home confirmed the player’s addition to the roster.

”We’re excited to have Sawyer join our program,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said in a statement. “It’s great to add a quarterback with his experience and success. He helped lead Troy to an outstanding season last year and we’re glad to have him here.”

As Smith comes to the Wildcats as a graduate transfer, he’ll be eligible to compete for a starting job immediately.  Additionally, he’ll have another season of eligibility he could use in 2020.

Smith played in 13 games this past season, including starts in the last seven.  In those appearances, the Florida native completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,669 yards and 14 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. He also rushed for 191 yards and another touchdown.

Terry Wilson started all 13 games for the Wildcats in a 2018 season that saw UK reach double digits in wins for the first time since Jimmy Carter was sitting in the Oval Office. Wilson, though, was 10th in the SEC and 63rd nationally with a 133.9 pass efficiency rating.

For what it’s worth, Smith’s 139 rating was fifth in the Sun Belt Conference and 47th in the country.

Lincoln Riley says Jalen Hurts must win the starting QB job at Oklahoma

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Coaches say things to motivate their players even if nobody really believes it. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, entering his third season in charge of the Sooners this fall, is already proving to be a veteran when it comes to setting the bar high and motivating his quarterbacks in the offseason.

Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will undoubtedly be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma when the 2019 season kicks off for the defending Big 12 champion on Sept. 1 against Houston. However, Riley is not prepared to publicly anoint his newest quarterback as the heir to the throne of the offense that has produced the last two Heisman Trophy winners at the quarterback position. Instead, Riley is telling media members at Big 12 media days Hurts will have to go out and earn the opportunity.

Don’t be shocked by seeing that quote, because that is what the best coaches will do no matter who is on their team. Except in certain situations where a proven starting quarterback is coming back to the program for a second or third (or fourth?) season, coaches will always hope to inspire healthy competition at every position, including quarterback. By not gifting Hurts the starting job in the middle of July, Riley is setting the tone that will keep Hurts pushing to improve his game and keep other quarterbacks like Class of 2019 five-star recruit Spencer Rattler and four-star Class of 2018 quarterback Tanner Mordecai working to get their shot.

But Hurts is far from any ordinary transfer quarterback. Hurts was the starter for Alabama for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, in which Alabama went to the national championship game both seasons, losing one and winning the other. Yes, Tua Tagovailoa replaced Hurts at quarterback for that national title win against Georgia, but Hurts was a major reason why Alabama was in the national title game two years in a row with him as the starter. Hurts brings multiple seasons of starting experience form one of the top programs in the sport with him. And after Oklahoma lost Kyler Murray to the NFL Draft a year after losing Baker Mayfield, Hurts is stepping right into a position that carried high expectations and demands results.

Hurts may have had a couple of bumps in the road in Tuscaloosa, but he didn’t come to Oklahoma to be a back-up. Riley knows that, but he has the responsibility to make sure everyone on his team is working hard to improve. That message should be heard loud and clear, even if media pundits don’t have to believe it.

LSU CB Kelvin Joseph is back in the transfer portal

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The NCAA transfer portal has seen a number of names come and go this offseason. Now, it appears, LSU cornerback Kelvin Joseph is stepping a foot in the transfer portal for a second time.

Joseph reportedly entered the transfer portal back in May, only to have that story disputed by his father. A day later, Joseph announced on Twitter that his father was, in fact, wrong with his claim. After some time passed, it seemed as though Joseph may end up staying in Baton Rouge to play for the Tigers this fall. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said “everything is good” regarding the status of Joseph as the story unfolded.

However, as multiple reports have surfaced at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama today, Joseph is now back in the transfer portal.

By entering the transfer portal, Joseph is free to have contact with any other college football program that may be interested in recruiting him. He would have to sit out the upcoming 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program due to standard NCAA transfer rules, barring any appeal being granted for immediate eligibility.

Joseph was a four-star member of LSU’s Class of 2018. He played in 11 games for the Tigers last season and was suspended from the Fiesta Bowl for unspecified violations of team rules.

NCAA to hear Missouri’s appeal over postseason ban

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As it stands right now, the Missouri Tigers will not be going to a bowl game at the end of the 2019 season even if they go 12-0. That is because the NCAA slapped the Tigers with a postseason ban for the upcoming college football season as part of a litany of sanctions levied against the program in January for violations of NCAA rules linked to ethical conduct, academic misconduct and academic extra benefits. However, Missouri is hoping their appeal will relieve the sanctions with enough time to make some postseason plans.

A report from Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports says Missouri is expected to appear in front of the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee this week to state their case. However, no decision on the appeals is expected to be made for at least another month. A decision to lift a postseason ban could even come as late as September after the start of the 2019 season.

Missouri formally filed its appeal of the sanctions in March. Missouri Athletics Director Jim Sterk said in June he was hoping the appeal would be heard before the football season.

“We really think we have a strong case for overturning the majority of the decisions that they made,” Sterk said in a radio interview. “The people that are a lot smarter than me that worked on this case really presented an appeal that’s strong and compelling. And we’ll be doing an in-person hearing, we’re expecting somewhere in the middle of July and then hear something hopefully by before football starts or shortly thereafter.”

The NCAA lifting a postseason ban during the current season is not unprecedented. In 2014, the NCAA lifted sanctions against Penn State after the start of the season, thus allowing the Nittany Lions to have the opportunity to play in a postseason bowl game at the end of the year. At 6-6, Penn State went on to play in the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College. The 2014 season was supposed to be the third year in Penn State’s four-year postseason ban as part of the sanctions in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Penn State served just two years of a postseason ban before the NCAA dropped the sanctions against the program amid legal battles.