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No. 18 Memphis beats No. 19 Cincinnati, clinches AAC title berth vs. Cincinnati

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The Cincinnati-Memphis game was so good, they’re going to do it again at the same place next week.

The No. 19 Tigers beat the 18th-ranked Bearcats 34-24, at once clinching the American West Division title and, by virtue of the head-to-head Friday, secures home field advantage for next week’s American Championship against the East champion — which happens to be Cincinnati.

Memphis (11-1, 7-1 AAC) opened the game perfectly, as Chris Claybrooks took the opening kickoff 94 yards back for a touchdown. After a Cincinnati (10-2, 7-1 AAC) field goal, the Tigers moved 77 yards in sevens snaps and took a 14-3 lead on a 9-yard Brady White pass to Kedarian Jones at the 7:24 mark of the first quarter.

The Tigers then forced a four-and-out and moved back inside the Bearcat red zone, but the drive stalled and Mike Norvell settled for a 34-yard Riley Patterson field goal, pushing the Memphis lead to 17-3 after the first quarter.

But then Cincinnati answered, launching drives of 12 and 14 plays that traveled 85 and 80 yards and consumed 11 and a half minutes of clock. Ben Bryant‘s 4-yard pass to Leonard Taylor pulled the ‘Cats within 17-10 at the 12:36 mark of the second quarter, and Michael Warren II‘s 3-yard run with 2:54 left in the first half tied the game.

Memphis struck back quickly, though, as White found Damonte Coxie for a 54-yard gain that took the ball from the Memphis 36-yard line to the Cincinnati 10, but the drive moved no further and the Tigers settled for a second short Patterson field goal.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, though not for lack of trying. Memphis forced two Cincinnati fumbles in the third quarter, but turned them into zero points. The first was recovered at midfield but the Tiger offense went backward, punting from their own 46. One possession later, Jonathan Wilson sacked Bryant at his own 45 and ripped the ball out, allowing the Tigers to take over at the Bearcats’ 43 and drive all the way to their 16, but White’s 4th-and-2 pass to Joey Magnifico was not quite magnificent, sailing out of bounds for a turnover on downs.

Cincinnati then took over at its own 16 and moved to the Memphis 17, almost exclusively on the ground, but Warren was stuffed on a 4th-and-1 run at the 2:02 mark of the third quarter.

Still leading 20-17, Memphis pushed the lead to 10 when White found Coxie behind the defense on an end-around pass for a 46-yard score, but Cincinnati answered when Bryant hit Alec Pierce for 51 yards on a 3rd-and-15 from his own 33, pushing the ball to the Memphis 16. Bryant rushed in from 12 yards out to pull Cincinnati within 27-24 with 10:27 remaining.

After Memphis came up empty twice in the third quarter, it was now Cincinnati’s turn to create nothing out of a turnover, as Ahmad Gardner picked White at the Bearcats’ 26, but Cincinnati immediately went three-and-out.

Cincinnati should have answered with its own three-and-out, but a White incompletion was nullified by an unsportsmanlike conduct flag against Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders, and three plays later Antonio Gibson raced in a 29-yard touchdown carry, giving Memphis a 10-point lead with 3:16 to play. The Bearcats were then forced to pass, which was not part of the plan with their backup quarterback, and Bryant was intercepted by Blake Sanchez, Jr., near midfield with 1:35 left.

The win pushed Memphis into the American Championship for the third straight season. Norvell’s team lost to an undefeated UCF team in 2017-18, but next Saturday’s game will be the first time the Tigers get to play for the conference championship at the Liberty Bowl.

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.