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Alabama rolling over Oklahoma in Orange Bowl

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Alabama’s offense has played to its potential, as expected. But it was the Crimson Tide defense, angry after a month of hype for their counterparts, that dominated the first half of Saturday night’s Orange Bowl, allowing No. 1 Alabama to jump out to a 28-0 edge en route to a commanding 31-10 halftime lead over No. 4 Oklahoma.

Oklahoma won the toss and chose to put its defense on the field first, and Alabama immediately punished them for it when Tua Tagovailoa hit Devonta Smith — the same connection that won last season’s national championship — for a 50-yard gain. Damien Harris converted a 3rd-and-5 with a 15-yard reception, putting the ball at the OU 5-yard line. He then appeared to fumble the ball away at the 1, but the play was overturned upon review and he barreled in for a touchdown on the next snap. It marked the 41st time in 48 tries an Oklahoma opponent found pay dirt on a red zone penetration, the worst ratio in the country.

Trailing 7-0, Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma offense took the field for the first time — and went three-and-out. After a 3-yard keeper on first down, Murray was sacked by Anfernee Jennings on second down and engulfed by Christian Miller on third.

After Austin Seibert‘s punt — a short one, just 35 yards — Alabama knifed 45 yards in seven plays, with Tua completions of nine, 13 and 11 yards, setting up a 10-yard scoring lob to Henry Ruggs III on third-and-goal and putting Oklahoma in the danger zone at 14-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.

Oklahoma managed to achieve a first down on its second possession, but a 5-yard loss by Trey Sermon and two incompletions to Marquise Brown forced another Seibert punt. Tua hit Jerry Jeudy for a 40-yard bomb two plays later and all of a sudden the Tide were in the OU red zone again. After two Jalen Hurts touches put the ball at the 1, Harris powered in for his second score, putting Alabama up 21-0 at the 1:33 mark of the first quarter.

To that point, Alabama wasn’t just shutting Oklahoma out on the scoreboard. The Crimson Tide led in total yardage 191-0.

Oklahoma pushed into positive yardage on its third possession but, sensing any shot at a comeback hung in the balance — with 10 seconds to play in the first quarter, mind you — Lincoln Riley decided to go for a 4th-and-4 from his own 48. Murray’s pass was incomplete.

Taking over in Sooners territory, Alabama needed only five plays to push its lead to 28-0. On a 3rd-and-6 from the OU 27, Tagovailoa hit a wide-open Josh Jacobs on a swing route, who ran untouched until he demolished Sooners safety Robert Barnes at the goal line, who had to be helped off the field.

Down four touchdowns, Oklahoma’s offense finally got off the mat. Keyed by a 39-yard catch-and-run completion to fullback Carson Meier, Murray pushed the ball to the Alabama 2 with a 32-yard strike to CeeDee Lamb, allowing Sermon to put the Sooners on the board at the 11:48 mark of the second quarter.

Sparked by that score, Oklahoma’s defense forced its first stop — a three-and-out, no less — allowing the Sooners to take over at midfield, but Murray threw incomplete for Grant Calcaterra in the end zone on a 3rd-and-5 from the 8, forcing a 26-yard Seibert field goal and pulling OU within 28-10 at the exact midpoint of the second quarter.

Alabama leaned on Oklahoma’s forgiving run defense on the ensuing drive, consuming 7:01 of the remaining 7:30, but a false start prevented Nick Saban from going for a 4th-and-1 from the OU 15, forcing a 38-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal.

In a pair of stats that tell the story, Murray was 6-of-13 for 122 yards, while his Heisman runner-up counterpart was 15-of-17 for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Murray led all runners with 46 yards on nine carries, barely edging out Jacobs’ nine carries for 45 yards, though Jacobs also caught three passes for 47 yards and a thundering touchdown.

Oklahoma will receive to open the second half.

Toledo announces future three-game series with Kentucky

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How about a little Power Five-Group of Five scheduling news to start off your Wednesday morning?

This week, Toledo announced that it has reached an agreement on a future three-game series with Kentucky, which is essentially a home-and-home plus a one-off.  The two schools will play in Lexington during the 2025 and 2028 seasons, with the Wildcats traveling to the Glass Bowl in 2027.

Specific dates for those matchups, which will be the first-ever between the school, weren’t divulged.

“We are very pleased to enter in this three-game series with the University of Kentucky,” said UT athletic director Mike O’Brien in a statement. “Bringing an SEC opponent into the Glass Bowl is huge for our football program and for our fans. We look forward to an exciting series with the Wildcats, beginning with the game in Lexington this fall.”

That 2027 game will mark just the second time an SEC school has ever traveled to Toledo for a football game, with the first being Missouri in 2014.  All told, the Rockets have played four games against members of that conference and have gone 1-3 in those contests, with the lone win coming against Arkansas in 2015.

Love lost as Memphis LB enters transfer portal

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For the third time this offseason, Memphis has seen a member of its football program sucked into the infamous portal.

Citing a source familiar with the decision, the Memphis Commercial Appeal is reporting that Nyle Love has entered his name into the transfer database.  No specific reason was given for the departure, although positioning on the depth chart would be a likely place to start.

Other FBS schools will be able to contact Love without receiving U-M’s permission, with the linebacker also retaining the ability to return to the Tigers if he so desires.  As we have noted multiple times in the past, the school now also has the option to strip Love of his scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered the portal.

If Love moves on to another FBS school, it’s very likely he’ll have to sit out the 2019 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

Love didn’t play a down for Tigers after coming to the AAC school as a three-star 2018 signee.

USC confirms JT Daniels is still Trojans’ starting QB

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The drama in the Land of Troy, such as it was, is officially over.

For most, there was a three-man battle for USC’s starting quarterback job throughout this offseason — incumbent JT Daniels, Matt Fink and Jack Sears.  Tuesday, the Trojans ended the competition charade by confirming that Daniels will indeed be the team’s starter when they open the 2019 season later this month.

Most intriguing, though, is the fact that true freshman Kedon Slovis, who has been mostly an afterthought in the competition, has been chosen as the true sophomore Daniels’ backup over Fink, a redshirt junior, and Sears, a redshirt sophomore.

Daniels started 11 games as a true freshman for the Trojans this past season, with Sears starting the other.  Fink seriously contemplated a transfer this offseason before opting to remain at USC.  Slovis, meanwhile, was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 26 pro-style quarterback in the country.

In his first season as a starter, Daniels completed almost 60 percent of his 363 passes for 2,672 yards, 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Michigan transfer Brandon Peters wins starting QB job at Illinois

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Michigan transfer Brandon Peters has won the quarterback derby at Illinois, Lovie Smith announced Tuesday.

“We loved Brandon when we got a chance to know him during the recruiting process,” Smith said. “Now that we’ve seen him on the field, he has been everything we though he would be. He has really thrown the ball well and is a better runner than he’s given credit for. Most importantly, he has moved into a leadership role for us. We’re pumped up about Brandon leading us heading into the season.”

A former 4-star recruit, the Avon, Ind., native is a graduate transfer who still has two years of eligibility remaining.

At Michigan he appeared in 10 games with four starts, completing 53 percent of his 110 throws for 680 yards and four touchdowns.

Illinois opens its season Aug. 31 at home versus Akron.