Associated Press

No. 2 Alabama too much for South Carolina

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The good news for South Carolina is that it landed several punches against Alabama and the game was much more competitive than the final score indicated. The bad news for the SEC? A “close” win still amounted to a 31-point win Tua Tagovailoa threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns to led the No. 2 Crimson Tide to a 47-23 victory over a game South Carolina squad.

Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) accepted the ball to open the game and sliced 65 yards in five plays, scoring on a 24-yard Tua toss to running back Najee Harris, and at that point it seemed the route was on.

South Carolina (1-2, 0-1 SEC), however, did not agree. The Gamecocks pieced together a 14-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a 44-yard Parker White field goal. Then South Carolina’s defense simply swallowed Alabama’s offense on its next possession, sacking Tagovailoa on first and third down. Skyler DeLong‘s punt went just 14 yards, handing South Carolina the ball and a golden opportunity to take the lead at Alabama’s 30.

The Tide defense forced its own three-and-out but, rather than try a 51-yard field goal, Will Muschamp called a beautiful fake field goal that went for a White touchdown, but the score was wiped off the board due to holding and the Gamecocks punted.

Alabama punished that mistake three plays later, when Tua hit Henry Ruggs III for an 81-yard touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 14-3 lead at the 3:15 mark of the first quarter.

Once again knocked to the mat, South Carolina answered. This time, the Gamecocks went 75 yards in six snaps, scoring on a 31-yard toss from Ryan Hilinski to Shi Smith.

The first quarter ended with the quarterbacks going 17-of-24 for 273 yards and three touchdowns and the teams rushing for 28 combined yards.

South Carolina limited another Alabama drive to a field goal to open the second quarter, but then committed another crucial special teams mistake. This time, an illegal shift penalty negated a punt that was downed at the 1-yard line; on the second attempt, Joseph Charlton booted it 55 yards to the 17, which Jaylen Waddle returned 18 yards to the 35, turning a 5-yard mark off into a 34-yard penalty.

The Gamecocks forced Alabama into a 4th-and-3 at its own 42, when Tua tossed it to Najee Harris and the former 5-star did the rest, shucking one tackler and hurdling another for a highlight reel touchdown.

Alabama forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and then South Carolina committed its third special teams disaster of the first half. Sensing the game slipping away from him, Muschamp called a fake punt from his own 30, but the Tide’s coverage unit was not fooled at all and Alabama took over at the South Carolina 32.

This time, however, Alabama paid back the Gamecocks with a special teams miscue of its own — a 37-yard field goal that Will Reichard pushed wide left.

Needing a drive to remain in the game, South Carolina got one, moving .. On first-and-goal from the 4, Rico Dowdle dove into the end zone but was ruled down at the 1. However, replays showed Dowdle perhaps got into the end zone before his thigh hit the ground, but the play was not reviewed. Hilinski’s second down pass was incomplete, and he fumbled the third down snap for a loss of two. Rather than kick a field goal, Muschamp elected to go for a fourth down on the final play of the half and Hilinski’s pass was incomplete and the Gamecocks came up empty.

South Carolina took the ball to open the second half and went 71 yards to get a 28-yard White field goal, meaning the Gamecocks compiled back-to-back drives totaling 24 plays, 148 yards… and three points.

Alabama finally separated for good when Tua found Devonta Smith on an RPO slant route for a 42-yard touchdown, putting the visitors up 31-13 with 9:52 to play in the third quarter. Tagovailoa ended his day at the 13:41 mark of the fourth quarter when he hit Smith for his 28th completion and his fifth touchdown of the day. Mac Jones capped the Tide scoring with a 1-yard keeper with 2:04 remaining.

Hilinski played courageously in his first start, completing 36-of-57 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, including an 11-yard toss to Kyle Markway with 11 seconds left in the game.

Central Michigan loses one of its highest-rated 2018 signees to the transfer portal

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One of the highest-rated signees for Central Michigan football a couple of years ago is leaving the MAC program.  Or, at least, he is exploring the option of doing as much.

According to 247Sports.com, George Pearson is listed in the NCAA transfer database.  That would be the first step in the redshirt sophomore quarterback’s potential departure from the Central Michigan football team.

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

Pearson was a three-star member of the Central Michigan football Class of 2018.  Only one offensive signee in that cycle for CMU, wide receiver Keonta Nixon, was rated higher than the New Jersey product.  As a true freshman, Pearson completed 12 of his 24 passes for 94 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Pearson didn’t play a down for the Chips in 2019.

In 2018, Central Michigan lost a school-record 11 games.  In Jim McElwain‘s first season in 2019, CMU won went 8-6.  Included in the losses was a New Mexico Bowl beatdown at the hands of San Diego State.

Ole Miss pulls in second transfer from a university in Canada

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From Oh Canada to Ole Miss football?  I’m thinking one recruit might be in for a little culture shock.  Actually, make that two.

Last month, a Canadian college football player, the University of Guelph’s Tavius Robinson, committed to Ole Miss football.  On Twitter Wednesday, Deane Leonard did the same. The cornerback comes to the SEC school from the University of Calgary.

“First off I’d like to thank my friends, family, and coaches that have supported me through this process,” Leonard wrote. “I can’t thank each and every one of you enough for all that you’ve done for me over the years. Love you guys!

“With the cancellation of the USports season I’ve decided it’s in my best interest to look at my options down south.

“With that being said, I’ll be transferring to Ole Miss to complete my collegiate career.”

During his time at That Country Up North, Leonard appeared in 23 games.  In that action, the defensive back was credited with 47 tackles, 19 passes defensed, six interceptions, two forced fumbles, one tackle for loss, one sack and one block.  He also returned five kicks for 124 yards (24.8 average) and 19 punts for 195 yards (10.3 avg.).  One of those punts was returned for a touchdown.

Both Leonard and Robinson are expected to be immediately eligible for new head coach Lane Kiffin and the Rebels.

SEC commish issues statement in wake of Big Ten’s seismic announcement

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It didn’t take long for the most powerful man in SEC football country to respond to what the B1G wrought.

As you may have heard, the Big Ten confirmed Thursday afternoon that it will be going with a conference-only football schedule for the 2020 season.  That was the first significant Power Five domino to tip, but it certainly won’t be the last.  In the coming days, or perhaps next week, the ACC and Pac-12 are expected to make a similar announcement.  The Big 12 and SEC, though, are widely expected to kick that football scheduling can down the road a bit longer, perhaps as late as the end of July.

Not long after the B1G announcement, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey released a statement addressing just where his conference is at decison-wise.

The Southeastern Conference will continue to meet regularly with our campus leaders in the coming weeks, guided by medical advisors, to make the important decisions necessary to determine the best path forward related to SE Fall sports.  We recognize the challenges ahead and know the well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans must remain at the forefront of those decisions.

Again, it’s expected that the SEC will make a decision on the football path it will take later this month.  Barring unforeseen circumstances pushing up that timeline, of course.

Big Ten commish, Ohio State AD decidedly pessimistic on B1G having a 2020 college football season

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The Big Ten toppled the first significant domino earlier in the day.  Now, two of the most powerful men in the conference are expounding on the development.  And, if you’re a fan of the sport, you might want to close your eyes when reading the next few paragraphs.  Or take several shots of an adult beverage before proceeding.

Thursday afternoon, the Big Ten confirmed reports that it will be going with a conference-only football schedule for the 2020 season.  All other fall sports are impacted in the same way.

In television appearances following the announcement, the B1G’s commissioner didn’t put a positive spin on football’s immediate future.

“One thing we have to realize is that this is not a fait accompli that we’re going to have sports in the fall,” Kevin Warren flatly stated. “We may not have sports in the fall, we may not have a college football season in the Big Ten. …

“We made a vow early on that, first and foremost, we would put the health, the safety and the wellness of our student-athletes at the center of all of our decisions.

Gene Smith was equally pessimistic.

“I can’t reiterate enough the fact that we might not play,” the Ohio State athletic director said in discussing football in 2020. “We just might not, and I think people need to understand that.”

It’s expected that other Power Five conferences will follow the lead of the Big Ten.  In the coming days, both the ACC and Pac-12 will most likely announce a conference-only football schedule.  The lone exception will be the ACC including Notre Dame, which already has six games against the conference on its 2020 slate, in any revamped schedule.

The Big 12 and SEC are widely expected to kick the scheduling can down the road a bit longer, perhaps as late as the end of July.  In the end, however, both of those Power Fives are likely to come to the same scheduling conclusion.