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Ticket punched: No. 2 Clemson books another title game trip by thumping No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl

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Clemson might just have this College Football Playoff thing figured out.

The No. 2 Tigers trounced No. 3 Notre Dame 30-3 in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, turning the first meeting of undefeated teams in a semifinal into a rout and booking their third national championship game appearance in the last four seasons in the process.

After a slow start in the first quarter that gave their opponent just a glimmer of hope, Dabo Swinney’s squad seemed to flip a switch like they have so many times in 2018 to turn on the jets. Leading the charge, as difficult as it was to comprehend for some, was none other than a pair of true freshman. QB Trevor Lawrence showed why he was inserted into the starting lineup earlier this season by throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns while making big throw after big throw down the field. A lot those passes wound up in the hands of fellow freshman Justyn Rosswho was terrific in hauling in six catches for 148 yards and a game-breaking two scores.

Sophomore Tee Higgins added in an acrobatic touchdown reception just before halftime too while tailback Travis Etienne put the final nail in the coffin with a 62 touchdown up the sidelines in the third quarter and finished with 109 yards in the game.

Needless to say, it was not the performance that Irish head coach Brian Kelly envisioned nor will it be one to quiet down the critics of the program after yet another dud on the national stage. While the team showed flashes on both sides of the ball, especially in the first quarter, it just wasn’t enough to contain the dam from breaking open against an opponent that has proven to be one of college football’s truly elite squads this season.

QB Ian Book was pressured on nearly every drop back and threw for 160 yards and an interception, doing most of his work scrambling around and picking up a few first downs with his legs. While the offense had to abandon the run due to the score in the second half, they couldn’t find much success on the ground either way and Dexter Williams was lucky to get 54 yards rushing against a defense that still looked terrific even without star Dexter Lawrence. 

By any objective measure the season should still be considered a success in South Bend but the thud of an ending with everybody watching on no doubt stings quite a bit.

The campaign is not over yet for Dabo Swinney and company however. The Tigers are headed back out West to take part in the national championship game at Levi’s Stadium and have their eyes firmly on bringing another CFP title back home with them.

There are precious few programs operating at the level Clemson is at the moment and they’ll have a shot at winning it all against either No. 1 Alabama or No. 4 Oklahoma after a dominant display at the Cotton Bowl.

Florida to host Florida Atlantic in 2021

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Florida will host Florida Atlantic in 2021, FAU announced Tuesday. The game will take place on Sept. 4 and serve as the season-opener for both schools.

The schools have met three times previously, all of them in Gainesville. Florida won 59-20 on Nov. 17, 2007, 41-3 on Sept. 3, 2011, and 20-14 on Nov. 21, 2015.

The game will round out both schools’ non-conference schedules.

Florida will visit USF on Sept. 11, host Florida State on Nov. 27 and has a TBD home game against Samford, most likely on Nov. 20.

Today’s news means Florida has a future game on the schedule with every FBS program in the Sunshine State except UCF and Florida International. Florida beat Miami in Orlando to open this season and will play a home-and-home with the ‘Canes in 2024-25.

Florida Atlantic will follow its Gainesville trip with an excursion to Colorado Springs to play Air Force. After that, the Owls will host Fordham and Georgia Southern to round out September.

 

With Husky mascot retiring in 2021, Northern Illinois to introduce successor on Tuesday

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Northern Illinois’ husky mascot, Mission, is retiring in 2021, and on Tuesday the school will introduce his successor.

Mission II, born on July 6 and weighing a tender 14.5 ounces, will replace Mission two years from now, and the puppy will begin his official duties as NIU’s next official mascot on Tuesday.

“We have long been searching for the heir apparent to Mission, and there is no question that we have found the right Huskie,” NIU Alumni Association Executive Director Reggie Bustinza said. “Mission has set very high expectations, but there is no doubt in my mind that Mission II cannot only meet those demands, but surpass them.

“We are happy that Mission will have plenty of years to enjoy his retirement.”

Mission will turn 10 years old in 2021, and by that time Mission II will be fully versed in all the expectations placed upon the Official Northern Illinois Husky.

Mission II, a Siberian husky born in southern Wisconsin, will accompany Mission “to all eligible events for experiential learning and proofing,” which begins at a tasting for an NIU-branded beer on Tuesday evening in DeKalb.

The school has not revealed when Mission II will make his debut at a Husky football game, and in the meantime he’ll continue training with Lisa Boland while also attending daily puppy classes.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing Mission and Mission II do the job together during the training period,” Boland said. “It will be wonderful to watch ‘Mini-Mish’ learn from Mission, and see them work as a team. Mission has set a very high bar in mascotting, and Mission II will be working very hard to follow in his footsteps. I am so proud of Mission and the work that he’s done as the official NIU mascot.

“I am thrilled to have the privilege of guiding his successor to best represent Huskie Nation.”

Troy loses RB B.J. Smith, SBC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, to season-ending injury

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This one will certainly leave a lasting mark.

Over the summer, Troy’s B.J. Smith was named as the Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.  Two months later, the football program confirmed, the running back will be sidelined for the remainder of the 2019 season because of an injury sustained in the Week 3 loss to Southern Miss.

While the specific nature of the injury wasn’t divulged by the school, it’s believed Smith injured his knee midway through the second quarter of last Saturday’s game.

Last season, Smith led the Trojans with 1,186 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns.  This season, the fourth-year senior had rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries in two games.

Because of the timing of the injury, Smith can take a redshirt for the 2019 season and return to the Trojans next season.

Texas LB Caleb Johnson enters transfer portal

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Sitting at the quarter-pole of the 2019 regular season, and Texas is the latest FBS program to feel the pain of the portal.

Joe Cook of InsideTexas.com was the first to report that Caleb Johnson has placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.  247Sports.com subsequently confirmed the initial report, writing that the junior linebacker “feels he has not fit in well since he arrived at Texas.”

247Sports provided further details as to the events leading up to Johnson’s decision.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Johnson met with the staff Monday morning to inform them of his intentions to enter the transfer portal. While the staff requested he think more about his decision, Johnson decided to enter his name into he NCAA Transfer Portal, and is listed in the portal as of Tuesday morning.

Johnson joined the Longhorns from the junior college level, enrolling early and taking part in spring practice this past offseason.  He was a three-star 2019 signee who was rated as the No. 3 JUCO outside linebacker in this past year’s class.

Through three games, Johnson hadn’t yet taken the field for the Big 12 program.