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Biletnikoff Award semifinalists are heavy on Big 12 receivers

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College football’s award season is coming soon, which means various individual awards are trimming down their massive watch lists to much smaller lists of semifinalists, and soon finalists. The Biletnikoff Award, which honors the nation’s best receiver regardless of position, released its list of 11 semifinalists for its award this season. As expected, some of the nation’s leading receivers managed to make the cut midway through November.

The list of semifinalists includes some of the top receivers from the Big 12 with Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, West Virginia’s David Sills V, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, and Texas Tech’s Antoine Wesley are among the 11 semifinalists for the award. Wesley leads the nation in average receiving yards per game with 134.7 ypg. Wallace is not far behind with 128.2 ypg. Those two are among the seven receivers who have already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark this season.

UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who leads the nation with 1,479 receiving yards was also named a semifinalist for the award. Hawaii’s John Ursua, the nation’s leader in receiving touchdowns (15) also made the cut.

The SEC’s top two receivers, A.J. Brown of Ole Miss (SEC-leading 1,047 receiving yards) and Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy (SEC-leading 10 touchdowns and second-most receiving yards, 925 yards). Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry, among the Pac-12 leaders in receiving yards and touchdowns, is joined by Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside as the Pac-12’s semifinalists.

Freshman star Rondale Moore of Purdue is the only player from a Big Ten school named a semifinalist for the award. Among the power conferences, the Big Ten has the longest drought of Biletnikoff Award winners with Braylon Edwards of Michigan being the last Big Ten player to win the award in 2004. The Big 12 has dominated the award over the past decade with seven Biletnikoff Award winners since 2007 including the last three years (Corey Coleman of Baylor in 2015, Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma in 2016, and James Washington of Oklahoma State in 2017) and two back-to-back winners (Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech in 2007-2008 and Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State in 2010 and 2011).

This list of 11 semifinalists will be trimmed down to three finalists on Nov. 19. The 2018 Biletnikoff Award will be presented on Dec. 6 at The Home Depot College Football Awards Presentation on ESPN.

No. 1 Alabama blanks No. 3 LSU, claims fourth SEC West crown in five years

Associated Press
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The good news for No. 3 LSU: its defense defended No. 1 Alabama as well as can be expected. The Tigers held Alabama scoreless on their opening drive for the first time all season, snatched Tua Tagovailoa‘s first interception of the season and forced him to play in the fourth quarter for the first time since last season’s national championship game.

The bad news: it didn’t come close to mattering. Alabama’s defense swallowed LSU’s offense and cruised to a 29-0 win over the Tigers in Baton Rouge.

Playing without star linebacker Devin White for the first half, LSU hung tough for the first 28 minutes, trailing just 9-0 when Todd Harris, Jr., snared an interception of Tagovailoa at his own 4-yard line. But, after a 4-yard run on first down (LSU’s longest of the first half), LSU elected to pass on 2nd-and-6 from their own 8, and Anfernee Jennings planted LSU quarterback Joe Burrow at his own 1. After a punt, Alabama took over at its own 46 with 1:29 to go, and needed less than half of that.

Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy for a 29-yard gain to move deep into LSU territory, then lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass to Irv Smith, Jr., effectively putting the game out of reach at 16-0.

Tagovailoa, the odds-on Heisman favorite, all but ended the game himself at the 5:14 mark of the third quarter, scampering for a career-long 44-yard touchdown run. He tossed a 15-yard score to Henry Ruggs III to open the scoring in the first quarter, and ended the game 25-of-42 for 295 yards with two touchdowns and an interception plus three carries for 49 yards and another score.

But perhaps the other quarterback’s stats were more indicative of how this game played out. The Tigers, who beat Alabama on the ground 151-116 a year ago, mustered just 12 yards on 25 carries. Given that, Joe Burrow would need to make like Tim TebowCam NewtonJohnny Manziel and Deshaun Watson did and beat Alabama by himself. Joe Burrow is not any of those players. He completed 18-of-35 throws for 184 yards and an interception, numbers that were plenty good to beat Mississippi State but stood no chance against Alabama.

In fact, the Tigers (7-2, 4-2 SEC) have not so much as scored on the Tide in Baton Rouge since a 20-13 overtime loss in 2014. They were blanked 10-0 in 2016 and held scoreless again on Saturday, as two late attempts to break the ice came up empty. Cole Tracy‘s 33-yard field goal with 10:45 left was no good, and Burrow was intercepted by Mack Wilson inside the Alabama end zone with 3:35 to play.

The win clinches Alabama’s (9-0, 6-0 SEC) fourth SEC West championship in five years and 12th overall. The Tide will meet No. 6 Georgia, a 34-17 winner at No. 9 Kentucky earlier Saturday, in a rematch of the 2017 CFP National Championship in the same stadium as that game.

No. 3 LSU hanging tough, but No. 1 Alabama still in control

Associated Press
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The good news for No. 3 LSU: it’s defense is holding its own against No. 1 Alabama’s top-ranked offense, and star linebacker Devin White is now back in the game. The Tigers held the Tide scoreless on their opening drive for the first time this season, and they even snatched the first interception of Tua Tagovailoa of the season.

The bad news, it hasn’t mattered. Alabama’s defense has swallowed LSU’s offense, and as a result the visitors hold a commanding 16-0 halftime lead in Baton Rouge.

Alabama has moved the ball on each of its possessions, including a 1st-and-10 at the LSU 14 on its first touch, but a broken play and two penalties forced a 4th-and-30 and a rare Mike Bernier punt.

But on the Tide’s next possession, the offense knifed 78 yards in five plays. Najee Harris busted free for a 22-yard gain and Tagovailoa connected on all four passes, including a 15-yard scoring strike to Henry Ruggs III at the 4:58 mark of the opening frame. Even though Alabama scored, LSU caught a break as a targeting call on the field against safety Grant Delpit was overturned upon review, keeping a second starter from being lost due to targeting. After the score, Joseph Bulovas‘s PAT was blocked.

After a punt, Alabama reached the LSU red zone for a second time and again was turned away without a touchdown, as Tagovailoa’s 3rd-and-3 pass from the 5 to Ruggs fell incomplete, forcing a 23-yard Bulovas field goal at the 6:59 mark of the second quarter.

Good as LSU’s defense has played, it won’t matter if the offense doesn’t get something going. The Tigers have crossed into Alabama territory twice, but just barely. Facing a 3rd-and-2 at the Tide 42 heading into the second quarter, LSU used the quarter break to dial up a Nick Brossette run, which was stuffed for no gain, forcing a punt. On the Tigers’ next drive, LSU surged to a 1st-and-10 at the Alabama 43, but the Tigers only went backward from there and punted on 4th-and-14 from the 47.

The second such punt put LSU in the danger zone, as an Alabama score probably put the game out of reach. Alabama moved from its own 16 to the 40, but Tagovailoa ended the drive with his first pick of the year. Though he gave the ball away, he still put his team in a favorable position, as the pick came at the LSU 4-yard line.

LSU promptly made its bad situation worse when Joe Burrow was sacked by Anfernee Jennings, turning a 2nd-and-6 into a 3rd-and-13 and an automatic punt.

Taking over at their own 45, the Tide needed only two plays for the dagger. First, Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy for a 29-yard catch-and-run gain, then nailed Irv Smith, Jr., for a 25-yard score with 1:15 left in the first half. The Heisman favorite looked human for the first time this season and still played well, hitting 20-of-31 passes for 205 yards with two touchdowns and one pick.

For the half, Burrow completed 8-of-18 passes for 68 yards, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire leads the club in rushing with three carries for seven yards. As a team, LSU has rushed 11 times for minus-1 yard with a long gain of four.

And no matter how well White and the LSU defense play, the Tigers won’t win if those numbers don’t change.

Easy dozen: No. 1 Alabama rolls to 12th straight win over Tennessee

Associated Press
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The good news for Tennessee: the Vols scored more points on No. 1 Alabama than they have at any point in their 11-game losing streak to the Clemson Tide.

The bad: it wasn’t near enough.

Though backup quarterback Keller Chryst exploited worrisome vulnerabilities in a work-in-progress Alabama secondary, it was too little, too late as Tua Tagovailoa and company overwhelmed the Vols en route to a 58-21 romp in Knoxville.

Alabama opened up leads of 14-0 less than five minutes into the game and 28-0 a dozen minutes in, cruising to a 42-14 halftime lead. It was the fifth time in eight games Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) has hit the 40-point barrier in the first half, and the first half Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) has allowed the same since a 62-37 loss to Florida on Sept. 16, 1995.

The 58 points are the most Alabama has ever scored in 100 games against Tennessee. The 37-point margin marks the ninth time (and third consecutive) Alabama has beaten Tennessee by at least 20 points during the ongoing 12-game streak.

In two-plus quarters, Tagovailoa furthered his Heisman campaign by hitting 19-of-29 passes for 306 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Chryst entered for an injured and ineffective Jarrett Guarantano (5-of-10 for 63 yards) and fired two second quarter touchdown passes, finishing 9-of-15 for 164 yards with no interceptions.

Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and, for the eighth time in eight tries, scored a touchdown on its opening possession. Tagovailoa guided the Crimson Tide 58 yards in nine plays, including a 10-yard connection to Jaylen Waddle on a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 35 and an 11-yard scoring toss to Jerry Jeudy.

And then came the knockout punch.

On a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 25, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney sacked Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Christian Miller for the visitors at the Vols’ 3. Josh Jacobs punched it in for the score, putting the Tide up 14-0 at the 10:35 mark of the first quarter.

After the score, Alabama’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Tagovailoa hit Waddle for a 77-yard touchdown strike on the first snap of the ensuing possession.

After another Vols three-and-out, Alabama moved 93 yards in nine plays, gaining 46 yards on two completions to Jeudy and scoring on a 3-yard Damien Harris rush, pushing Alabama’s lead to 28-0 with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.

Tennessee regrouped in the second quarter, forcing two straight three-and-outs (a first for Alabama this season), then moving 75 yards in five plays to get on the board. Guarantano hit Josh Palmer for a 30-yard gain but was forced to leave the game after taking a hit. Chryst entered and found Ty Chandler for consecutive gains of 26 and 10 yards, the latter putting Tennessee on the board at 28-7 with 7:21 to play in the first half.

Jeremy Pruitt called for an onside kick after the score, which Tennessee recovered… one yard before it was allowed to do so.

Alabama took over at the Tennessee 43 and capitalized with its fifth first half touchdown, a 2-yard Jacobs plunge that moved Alabama’s lead to 35-7 with 4:23 left in the first half.

But Chryst’s presence in the game continued to exploit a vulnerability in the Alabama secondary. Facing a 3rd-and-12 at his own 17, Chryst found Jauan Jennings for consecutive gains of 23 and 40 yards to move the ball to the Alabama 20. After an incompletion to Jennings, Chryst connected with Tyler Byrd for a 20-yard touchdown strike, pulling the Vols back within 21 with 2:18 left before the break.

Though Tennessee may have cracked the Alabama defense, the Tide’s offense remained unstoppable. Alabama needed 123 seconds to move 85 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 9-yard toss from Tagovailoa to Irv Smith, Jr.

Alabama opened the second half scoring by corralling Chryst in the end zone for a safety, then completed Tagovailoa’s day with a 41-yard scoring strike to Henry Ruggs III.

Jalen Hurts entered and contributed Tennessee’s third touchdown on a 27-yard pick-six to defensive lineman Kyle Phillips, but he immediately made up for the score by capping an 8-play, 70-yard drive with a 21-yard scoring jaunt.

No. 1 Alabama once again rolling over Tennessee

AP
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Every game lasts 60 minutes, but most Alabama games effectively last five, maybe 10. The No. 1 Tide’s tilt with Tennessee appears headed that way through one half.

Alabama leads 42-14 at the break in Knoxville.

Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and, for the eighth time in eight tries, scored a touchdown on its opening possession. Tua Tagovailoa guided the Crimson Tide 58 yards in nine plays, including a 10-yard connection to Jaylen Waddle on a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 35 and an 11-yard scoring toss to Jerry Jeudy.

And then came the knockout punch.

On a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 25, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney sacked Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Christian Miller for the visitors at the Vols’ 3. Josh Jacobs punched it in for the score, putting the Tide up 14-0 at the 10:35 mark of the first quarter.

After the score, Alabama’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Tagovailoa hit Waddle for a 77-yard touchdown strike on the first snap of the ensuing possession.

After another Vols three-and-out, Alabama moved 93 yards in nine plays, gaining 46 yards on two completions to Jeudy and scoring on a 3-yard Damien Harris rush, pushing Alabama’s lead to 28-0 with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.

Tennessee regrouped in the second quarter, forcing two straight three-and-outs (a first for Alabama this season), then moving 75 yards in five plays to get on the board. Guarantano hit Josh Palmer for a 30-yard gain but was forced to leave the game after taking a hit. Keller Chryst entered and found Ty Chandler for consecutive gains of 26 and 10 yards, the latter putting Tennessee on the board at 28-7 with 7:21 to play in the first half.

Jeremy Pruitt called for an onside kick after the score, which Tennessee recovered… one yard before it was allowed to do so.

Alabama took over at the Tennessee 43 and capitalized with its fifth first half touchdown, a 2-yard Jacobs plunge that moved Alabama’s lead to 35-7 with 4:23 left in the first half.

But Chryst’s presence in the game continued to exploit a vulnerability in the Alabama secondary. Facing a 3rd-and-12 at his own 17, Chryst found Jauan Jennings for consecutive gains of 23 and 40 yards to move the ball to the Alabama 20. After an incompletion to Jennings, Chryst connected with Tyler Byrd for a 20-yard touchdown strike, pulling the Vols back within 21 with 2:18 left before the break.

Though Tennessee may have cracked the Alabama defense, the Tide’s offense remained unstoppable. Alabama needed 123 seconds to move 85 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 9-yard toss from Tagovailoa to Irv Smith, Jr.

The sophomore missed on an uncharacteristic 10 passes, wrapping the first half 15-of-25 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Jacobs carried 11 carries for 64 yards and two touchdowns.

While Guarantano closed the half 5-of-10 for 63 yards, Chryst sliced the Tide to the tune of 119 yards and two touchdowns on 5-of-7 passing.

Alabama has out-rushed Tennessee 95 to minus-11.

The Vols will receive to open the second half.