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Halfway home: Joe Burrow’s record seven TDs gives LSU a massive halftime lead over OU

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Joe Burrow has been at his absolute best through the first half of the Peach Bowl, and we’ve yet to find a team that can hang with No. 1 LSU when that’s the case. Thirty minutes in, we know it’s not Oklahoma. The Heisman Trophy winner threw for 403 yards and an LSU and a College Football Playoff single-game record seven touchdowns as the Bayou Bengals lead No. 4 Oklahoma, 49-14.

The route started from the very first snap.

Oklahoma took the ball to start the game, and on 1st and 10 the Sooners went max protect, yet K’Lavon Chaisson sacked Jalen Hurts anyway. Kennedy Brooks ran the ball on second and third down; both carries lost a yard.

After a 25-yard Reeves Mundschau punt gave LSU the ball at Oklahoma’s 42-yard line, Burrow went right to work: a 16-yard strike to Thaddeus Moss, a 7-yarder to Terrace Marshall, Jr., and then a 19-yard touchdown to Justin Jefferson. Pat Fields wrapped Jefferson up at the 5 but the receiver willed the ball into the end zone, giving LSU a 7-0 lead at the 12:03 mark of the first quarter.

Oklahoma’s next possession went better than its first, in relative terms: Mundschau punted on 4th-and-11, not 4th-and-17. CeeDee Lamb false started before the first down snap, Brooks rushed for four yards on 1st-and-15, and Hurts’s first two passes were not close to being complete. However, the Sooner defense forced a three-and-out of its own, and then the Sooner offense arrived. A 12-yard Hurts keeper gave Oklahoma its first first down, and two plays later he found Lamb for a 51-yard bomb to the LSU 3. Brooks tied the game one play later.

It didn’t remain tied long. LSU knifed 75 yards in nine plays, converting the only third down they faced with a thunderous 14-yard Clyde Edwards-Helaire run, then finding the end zone on an 8-yard toss to Marshall, putting LSU back in front 14-7 with 4:24 remaining in the opening frame.

LSU’s defense then forced its third three-and-out in four tries, with some major assistance from the zebras. On a 3rd-and-10 pass toward the Oklahoma sideline, LSU’s Derek Stingley, Jr., all but tackled receiver Jadon Haselwood, yet the officiating crew — apparently the same group that reffed the 2019 NFC Championship — kept their flags in their pockets, despite the protests of the Sooner sideline and every viewer with working eyeballs.

Still, LSU took over at its own 14 after the punt, then converted a 3rd-and-2 when, evading a rush, Burrow rainbowed a 24-yard connection to Marshall, who was pushed out of bounds but, after a review, was deemed eligible to catch the pass. Chris Curry, garnering the start at running back in Edwards-Helaire’s place, charged for 19 yards after the review, then Jefferson dropped a 1st-and-10 pass from the OU 35. He did not drop the next one, a 35-yard strike that marked Burrow’s third touchdown pass of the first quarter and his 51st of the season, giving LSU a 21-7 lead with 1:16 still to play in the first quarter. The Heisman winner threw for 166 yards in the frame, firing as many touchdowns as incompletions (with one drop) over his 14 attempts.

After Oklahoma’s fourth punt of the first 16 minutes, LSU converted a 3rd-and-10 through an all-time bonehead play by Sooner safety Brendan Radley-Hiles, who elected to lay a blindside hit on Edwards-Helaire, allowing Burrow to scramble for the conversion while Radley-Hiles got himself ejected from the game for targeting. Two plays later, Burrow found Jefferson matched up on Radley-Hiles’ replacement, freshman Woodi Washington (who had his redshirt burned thanks to Radley-Hiles), and exploited that mismatch to the tune of a 42-yard touchdown pass, giving LSU a 28-7 lead at the 12:13 mark of the second quarter. That strike pushed Burrow’s numbers to 12-of-18 for 204 yards and all four scores, with six connections to Jefferson to the tune of 136 yards and three scores.

Hurts, meanwhile, was 1-of-9 for three yards outside of the 51-yard strike to Lamb. It would soon get worse. Oklahoma tried a trick play where Hurts tossed to Lamb, who tossed back to Hurts and looked downfield for Nick Basquine, but Kary Vincent, Jr., intercepted the throw. Oklahoma forced LSU into a 3rd-and-18, but that just allowed Biletnikoff Award winner J’Marr Chase to join the game with a 22-yard conversion, taking the ball to the OU 30. And then: Burrow to Jefferson, for a fourth time. This 30-yard score put LSU up 35-7 with 9:17 still left before halftime, and pushed Burrow to 291 yards on 17-of-23 passing, while Jefferson had nine grabs for 186 yards.

Oklahoma responded with a vintage OU drive: 75 yards over 10 plays, scoring on a 2-yard Hurts keeper.

That score pulled the Sooners to within 35-14, but it also sent Burrow and company back on the field. After a 13-yard Curry run, Burrow found a streaking Moss for a 62-yard touchdown. The score, with 4:18 still left in the first half: LSU 42, OU 14, Burrow 353 and six.

After another OU three-and-out and Mundschau’s fifth punt (his season high is six), LSU went 63 yards in five plays, pushing the lead to 49-14 and pushing Burrow over the top with school and Playoff single-game records with his seventh touchdown (a 2-yarder to Marshall), which he needed only 29:10 to break.

Burrow closed the half 21-of-27 for 403 yards with his record seven scores. LSU also ran 13 times for 94 yards (out-rushing OU by 35 yards, on five fewer carries), giving the Tigers a grand total of 497 first-half yards on 40 snaps.

But wait, there’s more: LSU will get the ball to open the second half.

Big 12 to allow teams to play 1 non-conference football game

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Two people involved with the decision say the Big 12 will permit its teams to play one nonconference football game this year to go along with their nine league contests as plans for the pandemic-altered season continued to fall into place.

The people spoke Monday night to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conference was still preparing an official announcement.

The Big 12 university presidents signed off on the conference’s scheduling model, which gives schools the ability to play one nonconference game at home. The conference’s championship game is scheduled for Dec. 5, but one of the people told AP that the conference is leaving open the possibility of bumping it back a week or two.

The 10-team Big 12 already plays a nine-game, round-robin conference schedule. Unlike other Power Five conference that have switched to either exclusively (Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) or mostly (ACC) league games this season, the Big 12 could not add more conference games without teams playing each other more than once.

Several Big 12 teams have already started preseason practice, with Kansas and Oklahoma slated to play FCS teams on Aug. 29.

As conferences take steps toward a football season that seems to be in precarious shape, the NCAA is expected to weigh in Tuesday on fall sports other than major-college football.

The association’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet and whether to cancel or postpone NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, volleyball and lower-division football is expected to be a topic.

Only the Pac-12 has a full football schedule with matchups and dates in place among Power Five conferences. The Pac-12 will begin Sept. 26, along with the Southeastern Conference, which is still working on its new 10-game slate.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has opponents set for its 10-game conference schedule and will start the weekend of Sept. 12, but no specific game dates. The ACC has also said it will permit its teams to play one nonconference game.

The Big Ten, first to announce intentions to go conference-only this season, has yet to release a new schedule, but that could come later this week.

Now that the Power Five has declared its intentions the Group of Five conferences can start making plans and filling holes on their schedules.

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has said the AAC could stick with its eight-game conference schedule and let its members plays as many of their four nonconference games as they can salvage or replace.

The Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences are likely to take similar approach.

Early Monday, Texas State from the Sun Belt announced it was moving a nonconference game against SMU up from Sept. 5 to Aug. 29.

Good morning and, in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night! CFT, out…

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CFT is no more. At least, when it comes to NBC Sports.

The first of last month, I — this is John Taylor (pictured, catching the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII) — began my 12th year with CFT and NBC Sports. This morning, I was informed that my position was being eliminated and I would not be completing that 12th year. Which, of course, meant I wouldn’t be eligible for the traditional 13th-anniversary gift of lace. Which really bummed me out. Because I really like lace.

The jarring phone call was both a slap in the face and a relief. Jarring because, well, it was completely unexpected. Out of the blue, even amidst the pandemic that is wreaking absolute and utter havoc across the country. A relief, on the other hand, because, every single day for the past four months, I woke up wondering if this would be the day I get that call.

Would this be the day? Would this be the day? A question played on an endless loop that just f***s with you mentally, emotionally, physically.

That’s no way to live.

Then again, being job-less is no way to live, either. But, here we are.

So many people I want to thank. First and foremost, Mike Florio and Larry Mazza. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Especially Mr. Mazza on the food front. Hopefully, lunch at Oliverio’s — best damn stuffed shells I have EVER had — can still be a thing, Larry.

And so many people that have worked for me. Not to single anyone out, but I’m going to single one out in Ben Kercheval. Ben, non-biological son of Hoppy, you were and continue to be the man. I appreciate you more than you know.  Rasheed Wallace may indeed be your biological father, but I will forever consider you my illegitimate Internet stepson.

Mike Miller is the best boss anyone could ever ask for.  Hire that man.  You can thank me later.

Kevin McGuire, Zach Barnett, Bryan Fischer, I will always treasure what we did, together, these last few years. Things were on the uptick, and it’s sad that we won’t be able to see it through. Together.  We should’ve — SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE SHOULD’VE — been given that opportunity.  And it will forever piss me off that we weren’t.

Brent and Chris and JJ, much love to you all as well.

Shortly after I received the job call of death, I called my dad. Told him what was going on in his son’s life.  After I hung up the phone, he sent me a GIF in a text message a few minutes later.  I’ll link it here to end whatever this is, because it’s appropriate.  And old school.

And, well… bye.

via GIPHY

2018 FCS All-American RB commits to Virginia

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Virginia joined South Carolina over the weekend as Power Five football schools realizing a personnel benefit from a lower-level program’s loss.

Two weeks ago, the Colonial Athletic Association announced that it was canceling its 2020 college football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.  One member of that FCS conference is Towson.  Coincidentally or not, one standout member of the Tigers, Shane Simpson, took to Twitter last week to announce that he has entered his name into the NCAA transfer database.

On that same social media service Sunday, the running back confirmed that he has committed to the Virginia football team.  Simpson had his transfer to-do list down to Virginia and Texas.

As Simpson was a fifth-year senior in 2019, it appears he has been granted a sixth season of eligibility.  Or, is fairly confident he will receive one.

Simpson would likely be eligible for that sixth season as he missed all but four games of his true freshman season in 2015 because of injury, then missed all but the first three games last season because of a serious knee injury.

In 2018, Simpson earned first-team All-American honors.  He finished second in all of FCS with 171.5 all-purpose yards per game, totaling 2,058 yards on the season.  That same season, the Pennsylvania product was the CAA’s Special Teams Player of the Year and earned three different all-conference honors: first-team at running back, second-team as a kick returner and third-team as a punt returner.

Simpson would be eligible to play immediately in 2020 at the FBS level.

South Carolina pulls in transfer WR from Tarleton State

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South Carolina is the latest football program to benefit from a lower level of the sport opting out of football this fall.

In the middle of last month, the Western Athletic Conference — yes, the WAC — announced that it is delaying the start of fall sports, including football, because of the coronavirus pandemic.  Tarleton State was set to enter its first season in the FCS conference after moving up from Div. II.

One member of the Texans won’t get to realize that monumental move, though, as Jalen Brooks announced on Twitter over the weekend that he will be transferring into the South Carolina football program.

“God is undefeated,” Brooks wrote. “I would not be able to make this commitment without God, my family, my coaches, my teammates, the people I work out with, and the work that I put into everything.”

Interestingly, 247Sports.com wrote that “Brooks visited the campus in Columbia with his former high school coach, Jason Seidel, serving as his tour guide.” In late June, the NCAA once again extended its ban on in-person recruiting through the end of August.  It’s assumed that the South Carolina football program wasn’t involved in that on-campus visit.

At this point, it’s unclear if the wide receiver will be eligible to play for the Gamecocks this season. If he is, he’d have three years to use two seasons of eligibility.  If not, he’d use his redshirt in 2020, then have two years starting in 2021.

Brooks actually began his collegiate career at Div. II Wingate University in North Carolina.  In January of this year, the receiver transferred to Tarleton State.

In two seasons with the Bulldogs, Brooks totaled 998 yards and nine touchdowns on 50 receptions.