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No. 6 Ohio State sends off Urban Meyer in style by topping No. 9 Washington in the Rose Bowl

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PASADENA, Calif. — Urban Meyer’s first trip to the ‘Granddaddy of them All’ resulted in an appropriate grand finale.

No. 6 Ohio State turned in a thrilling performance in the 105th Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day to send their head coach out in style, beating No. 9 Washington by a deceiving 28-23 score on a picture-perfect Southern California afternoon to ring in 2019 in style.

Leading the way was Buckeyes quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who could count the contest as a sendoff himself with a looming NFL draft decision awaiting. The redshirt sophomore certainly looked the part of a first-rounder, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns against one of the best pass defenses in the country coming in. In addition to making a number of ‘wow’ throws, he found nine different receivers all told from TE Rashod Berry on a short scoring toss on the goal line to Parris Campbell (71 yards, 1 TD) all over the field.

Tailback Mike Weber made the most of his final game in scarlet and gray by rushing for 96 yards as well.

“Today Mike ran the ball really efficiently and got a lot of first downs with him. Opened up the passing game for us, giving us some wide-open lanes and as far as impacting the zone coverage,” said Haskins. “We did a great job picking up some blitzes today, and we had to be efficient.”

The Huskies certainly had their chances as the sun set on the San Gabriel Mountains but never could get over the hump and truly threaten to make it a close one. Jake Browning failed to extend his record for wins by a Pac-12 signal-caller but did what he could, scrambling often to extend plays while throwing for 313 yards and giving way to fellow senior Myles Garrett in both the passing game (one TD pass off a jump throw) and the run game with 121 yards and two more scores to close out his career.

Though UW’s offense failed to find the end zone enough, their defense continued to battle from start to finish and sacked Haskins three times. It was a solid effort overall that made things closer than expected as the fourth quarter clock ticked away and was even more impressive considering safety Taylor Rapp missed the action with a reported hip injury and linebacker DJ Beavers went down with a leg injury in the first half among other issues.

Still, it wasn’t quite what the throngs of purple and gold-clad fans were hoping for this season after College Football Playoff talk gave way to a Pac-12 title but also four losses on the year. The program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since 2001 is still not a bad consolation prize but it’s clear that Chris Petersen doesn’t quite have Washington back among the national elite just yet on Montlake.

“Tough one. Very frustrating when you start the first half like we started. I had no idea why. It’s on me. It’s not these kids,” said Petersen. “They practiced hard. They’re ready to play. But we really didn’t play with that edge and that chip that we normally play with, really, just, you know, across the whole squad.”

All eyes were on his opposite number Tuesday however, who will leave the game (for now) with a 187-32 overall record — and 83-9 at Ohio State with a national title — that will put him just behind historical greats like Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy in terms of overall winning percentage. It was the final victory though, in Meyer’s first and only appearance at the greatest of all bowl games, that will surely be cherished unlike any other.

“What an up-and-down year,” remarked a visibly relieved Meyer as he savored his final few minutes in charge. “(The players) gave us their very best. Big Ten Division champs, Big Ten champs, Rose Bowl champs, and one of the great teams in Ohio State history.

“This has always been very personal. I’m from the great state of Ohio and I’m very proud of my state. I’ve been a Buckeye fan as long as I can remember.”

It was a trying final campaign in Columbus for both coach and program but the sweet taste of victory and roses will be the final one for Meyer and the Buckeyes to savor.

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.

Auburn four-star linebacker Richard Jibunor enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal never takes a day off in college football. Auburn linebacker Richard Jibunor is one of the latest players to add his name to the list. Matt Zenitz of Al.com reported the transfer portal news, via Twitter.

Coincidentally enough, Auburn received a commitment from a four-star linebacker yesterday (Cameron Riley), but you can make your own guess as to whether those two developments were related in any way. Regardless, Auburn is still potentially about to lose a linebacker off the roster.

A player is free to make contact with any other football program looking to recruit him once his name is officially added to the NCAA’s transfer portal. But adding a name to the portal doesn’t necessarily mean this is the end of the line for Jibunor at Auburn, because a player can always take their name out of the portal and decide to stay with their current program. However, Auburn also has the option of dropping Jibunor from his scholarship now that he is in the transfer portal.

Jibunor was a four-star recruit in Auburn’s Class of 2018. As a true freshman last season, Jibunor appeared in 10 games and recorded eight tackles and two sacks. He also forced a fumble for the Tigers defense. The Athens, Georgia native chose Auburn, who seemingly had the lead in his recruiting for a while. He committed to the Tiger sin Nov. 2017 after two previous unofficial visits earlier in the 2017 season.

Jibunor will have to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless there is a waiver approval in the works with the NCAA offices. There is no suggestion at this time that is an option in play. Jibunor still has a redshirt to burn, so he will still have three years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.

Mike Gundy inspired to improve after Oklahoma State’s 2018 failures

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The best college football coaches are always learning and adjusting over time rather than stick to their guns no matter what. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had the Cowboys humming along as a typical 10-win program until hitting a speed bump last season. Now, after winning just seven games last season, Gundy is feeling as energized as ever going into a new season, if not more.

In an interview with The Oklahoman, Gundy made it clear he was inspired to get going in 2019 after seeing his program take a few more lumps than they were accustomed the last few years.

“It energized me, because I failed to get our team to play at the highest level last year,” Gundy said to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman. “We were a very undisciplined football team, and we were not a very tough football team. And those two things fall on the head coach.”

Oklahoma State was ninth in the Big 12 with 70.5 penalty yards per game, with an average of 6.8 penalties called against them per game, which is more in the middle of the Big 12. In Oklahoma State’s case, it wasn’t so much the number of penalties received per game, but the yardage tacked on to those penalties. In 2017, Oklahoma State had the second-fewest penalty yards per game assessed to them in the Big 12, and in 2016 they led the Big 12 with the fewest penalty yards per game.

“So when I see mistakes that can be corrected and should be corrected, and when I go back and see the reasons for those mistakes were me, the head coach, it energizes me to come up with a solution, put a plan in place, solve the problem and make it better,” Gundy said. “Moreso than even an 11 or 12-win season, just for me.”

Gundy is about to embark on his 15th season as the head coach in Stillwater. The last time Oklahoma State recorded a seven-win season, the Cowboys ripped off three consecutive 10-win seasons.