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Northern Illinois caps remarkable second half rally to beat Buffalo and capture MAC title

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Northern Illinois was out of it. Down 29-10, the Huskies had just thrown an interception and looked like they were about to get run out of Ford Field by Buffalo in the MAC Championship Game.

Never say never when it comes to #MACtion however.

The Huskies used a 35 yard touchdown pass to D.J. Brown in the final 70 seconds to cap off a remarkable second half rally to beat the Bulls 30-29 on Friday night in a thrilling start to conference championship weekend in college football.

After a lackluster first half in the school’s seventh title game appearance in the last nine years, QB Marcus Childers and company eventually found their groove on offense to turn a likely loss into a wild win. The signal-caller wound up throwing for an even 300 yards and four touchdowns, moving past an absolute arm punt of an interception early on to find Brown deep for the game-winning score and leading the team in rushing with 58 yards for good measure.

Not to be out done, Huskies star pass rusher Sutton Smith also flashed plenty in the game with numerous quarterback hurries and added two sacks in an impact performance down the stretch from the conference’s player of the year.

The rally stunned many on the Buffalo sidelines given their big early lead and the possibility of securing the school’s second conference title ever and first in a full decade. Quarterback Tyree Jackson threw for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the big stage, but was harassed quite a bit by Smith in the second half and failed to move the sticks much after emerging from halftime. He did make several impressive throws in tight windows while hooking up with star receiver Anthony Johnson (124 yards, two scores) but the two just couldn’t get in position for a late field goal to nab the win in a game they controlled for much of the night.

Bulls tailback Jaret Patterson did set a school freshman record for rushing yards in a season after recording 72 on the ground in the game and found the end zone once (teammate Kevin Marks added another 72 yards and also had a TD) as the program set a single-season record for points scored and yards rushing in coming up just short of an 11th win.

As a result, NIU remains Buffalo’s boogeyman as the Huskies are the only program in the MAC the Bulls have not beaten since joining the conference — dropping to 0-11 overall since moving to the FBS level. A berth in either the Camellia Bowl or Dollar General Bowl likely awaits the team, which will no doubt be wondering what could have been despite reaching double-digit wins for the first time ever.

Rod Carey’s group may also be left wondering how that game came about but won’t argue with the final score, which gives the program their fifth MAC title overall and second with their head coach. The team had started slow to begin the year, ran off six straight wins and then were slumping coming into the weekend but used a little bit of magic when it mattered most to wind up as top dogs yet again as college football’s first championship trophy was handed out this season in Detroit.

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.