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LSU takes control late as thrilling national title game against Clemson hits halftime

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Tigers vs. Tigers? Oh my.

No. 3 Clemson looked unfazed on the big stage once again as they traded blows with No. 1 LSU in a thrilling start to the National Championship Game in New Orleans. It was, however, the local Tigers who hit the locker room up 21-17 in a contest that is more than living up to its historic billing as a heavyweight fight for the sport’s ultimate prize.

While things started off rather slow with four straight punts to open things up, eventually Clemson signal-caller Trevor Lawrence started to find a bit of a groove. The sophomore with an undefeated record in orange and white continued to impress with his legs in opening up scoring with a short one yard touchdown scamper. He wasn’t too shabby with his arm either in throwing for 176 yards though did miss a handful of throws that could have made things even more interesting at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Still, the ACC champions were able to send a shiver up the spine of the very favorable home crowd by taking a two score lead on LSU for the first time all season. Even B.T. Potter, who previously entered the game as a bit shaky from the kicking spot, was ice cold in drilling a 52-yarder.

But eventually Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow went all, well, Joe Burrow. Escaping a number of difficult blitz situations he wound up rushing for a team-high 55 yards and a touchdown of his own all while dropping dimes ot the tune of 270 yards and three scores through the air. Two of those trips to the end zone game in beautifully placed passes into the arms of Ja'Marr Chase, who seemed to take over for Peach Bowl hero Justin Jefferson by hauling in six for 162 yards.

Tailback Clyde Edwards-Helaire was not quite as productive as we’ve seen him at times but still turned the game around with several big plays in the second quarter to give the Tigers tons of momentum heading into the locker room for a break from the title track meet.

Clemson has been in this position before, including in their semifinal against Ohio State, and turned things around. Can they do it again or will LSU be hoisting yet another trophy just down the road from campus? Regardless how things turn out, expect plenty of second half fireworks down the stretch.

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.

Ole Miss, Georgia State announce football/basketball weekend in Oxford for 2026 season

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Ole Miss has been busy on the football scheduling front the past couple of months.  This one, though, comes with a twist.

Both Ole Miss and Georgia State announced Wednesday a future football game between the two FBS programs.  That game will be played at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Nov. 21, 2026.  The night before, however, the Rebels and Panthers men’s basketball teams will meet in Oxford as well, the schools announced.

The football game will mark the first-ever meeting in the sport between the SEC Sun Belt Conference members.  As GSU noted, though, that “[b]y the time of the match-up in 2026, the football team will be playing at least its seventh different member of the Southeastern Conference, including a 38-30 win over Tennessee last fall.”

Since the end of May, Ole Miss has announced future football games against South Alabama (HERE), Alcorn State (HERE) and Charlotte (HERE).

The Rebels will enter the 2020 campaign under new leadership.  In early December, Matt Luke was fired after three seasons.  Five days later, Lane Kiffin was hired.

In the third season under Shawn Elliott, GSU went 7-6 this past year. It was a five-win improvement from the 2-10 record the year before. In Elliott’s first season, the Panthers went 7-5. The seven wins are the best-ever for the Georgia State football program since moving to the FBS level in 2013.