Sunday, December 8, 2019

Ohio State Football

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields looked frazzled and frustrated in the first half Saturday night. So did the rest of the Buckeyes.

ohio state game
The Badgers did more than that Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game.
But No. 2 Ohio State took several roundhouse punches from No. 10 Wisconsin before rallying for a 34-21 victory in front of a partisan Buckeyes crowd 66,649 at Lucas Oil Stadium. 
K.J. Hill, who became Ohio State’s career leader in receptions, caught two touchdown passes in the second half as the Buckeyes rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit.
The Buckeyes won their third straight conference championship, becoming the first Big Ten team ever to win three consecutive outright titles.
Now the question is whether the victory was enough to keep the Buckeyes atop the final College Football Playoff rankings when they are announced Sunday. Ohio State had the edge on LSU and Clemson heading into this week, but both of those teams had dominating victories in their conference title games.
Then the Big Ten's offensive player of the year started trusting himself — and his teammates.
Fields threw three touchdown passes and the Buckeyes defense pitched a second-half shutout and beat No. 10 Wisconsin to help No. 2 Ohio State claim an unprecedented third straight outright Big Ten championship and likely their first playoff trip in three years.
The only real question is where the undefeated Buckeyes will be seeded.
“I think we deserve to be No. 1," first-year coach Ryan Day said on the podium, moments after hoisting the championship trophy.
The Buckeyes (13-0) certainly make a compelling case.
They were ranked No. 1 by the College Football Playoff selection committee last week and now enter the postseason on a 19-game winning streak. They're the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision with five wins over five programs ranked in the CFP's top 25 last week, and they've beaten three consecutive top-10 teams — all by double digits — and beat the Badgers for the second time this season.
But an unsteady first half, in which the Buckeyes faced their biggest deficit of the season, may have opened the door for two other two unbeaten, LSU and defending national champion Clemson, to try and supplant the Buckeyes as the No. 1 seed.
Ohio State believes scoring the final 27 points should be good enough.
“We took their best shot but we still had a half," running back J.K. Dobbins said. “It would be cool to be No. 1. We're a complete team, I think."
The Badgers (10-3, No. 8 CFP) can't quibble with that argument after losing their seventh straight in the series. After winning the first two Big Ten title games, the Badgers have now lost in each of their last four championship appearances, including three times to Buckeyes.
But this one didn't follow the usual script.
The Badgers scored the first 14 points, putting Ohio State in its deepest deficit all season, and still led 21-7 at the half.
ohio state
Ohio State changed everything with a quick-hitting flurry in the third quarter.
Jeremy Ruckert started the comeback with a spectacular one-handed catch in the back of the end zone on the fifth play. Cutting the deficit to 21-14.
Four plays later, Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti dropped the ball and was tackled at the Badgers 16. Ohio State converted that miscue into a 27-yard field goal to make it 21-17.
And after Wisconsin missed a 48-yard field goal wide left on its next series, Fields hooked up with K.J. Hill for a 16-yard pass and 24-21 lead with 2:23 left in the third quarter. Fields added a 13-yard TD pass to Hill early in the fourth.
Dobbins finished with 33 carries for 172 yards and one score while Fields was named the game's MVP after going 19 of 31 with 299 yards.
“I think the whole team knew we didn't play to our potential in the first half," Fields said. “We got together and came out with confidence in the second half and just played our game."
Jack Coan ran for two touchdowns in the first half and Jonathan Taylor rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown for the Big Ten West champions.
“We let it slip away," Taylor said. “Just disappointed, like I said, because that (a championship) was my goal coming into the season."
THE TAKEAWAY
Wisconsin: For 30 minutes, the Badgers put themselves back in the playoff debate. But they couldn't finish and now the Big Ten runner-ups must wait to see what their consolation prize will be.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes looked completely out of sorts in the first half. But a halftime speech and some second-half adjustments helped the Buckeyes revert to their more familiar form — and give themselves a chance to claim the top seed in their quest for another national championship.
STAT SHEET
Wisconsin: Coan was 17 of 33 with 232 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions but scored two touchdowns on seven carries. ... After rushing for 194 yards in the first half, Wisconsin was held to 6 yards in the second half. ... The Badgers were outscored 31-7 in the third quarter of their two games against Ohio State this season.
Ohio State: Fields has thrown 40, Brees threw 39. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in 12 of 13 games this season. ... K.J. Hill caught seven passes for 83 yards and two scores, becoming the Buckeyes career leader in receptions. He passed David Boston (191) and now has 195. ... Chris Olave had five catches for 94 yards. ... Punter Drue Chrisman completed his only pass for 21 yards and a first down.

TAYLOR'S TREK
Taylor became the seventh player in FBS history to reach 6,000 yards rushing in his career when he ran for 6 yards early in the second quarter. The junior finished the game with 6,080 career yards.
The last player to join the club was Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego State in 2013.
Wisconsin is the only school to produce two 6,000-yard rushers. The other is Ron Dayne, the career rushing leader, with 7,125 yards.
HE SAID IT
“We got punched in the mouth in the first half,” Hill said. “We didn't come this far to come this far."
UP NEXT
Wisconsin: Will wait until Sunday to find out its bowl game.
Ohio State: Can start preparing for its first playoff game in three seasons.
___
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Ohio State University President Plans To Retire Next Year

(Sarah K. Benning for The Post)
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  • Ohio State University President Michael Drake To Retire

    Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake said he will retire next year. He said he is proud of Ohio State’s progress during his tenure and that the timing was right for both his family and the university.
    Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake will retire next year after six years at the helm of the state’s flagship university.
    Drake, 69, who has served in the role since June 2014, will continue to lead the university through at least the end of the 2019-2020 school year, he said in an exclusive interview with The Dispatch. He said he and his wife, Brenda, have been discussing a transition for "several months," and the timing was right for both his family and Ohio State.
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    The university had a record year in a number of metrics, he said, as well as kicked off the celebration of its 150th anniversary, which occurs next March.
    "I'm really proud of the position that the Ohio State University has achieved nationally in these years," Drake said. "I’m proud of it and I'm also humbled by the incredible work of the entire team — our students, our faculty, our staff — the people who make all these things happen."
    The university will launch a national search for its next president, with trustee Lewis Von Thaer serving as chair of the search committee. Drake, who teaches a course on the music of the civil-rights movement and is an ophthalmologist by training, will remain on the Ohio State faculty following his retirement.
    "It's the double-edged sword of being excited to do something a little different, to kind of go back to a faculty position that I enjoyed so much for so many years, but we really love our work with the university, so I'm, you know, feeling that," he said. "And so, it has that bittersweet ring of really loving what we do, but it also feels like it's time for change."
    Drake’s announcement comes after a committee of Ohio State trustees gave him a positive performance evaluation and approved a 2.5% raise Wednesday, bringing his annual salary to nearly $892,000. Unlike previous years, though, they did not approve a bonus.
    The news also comes as the university works through more than a dozen lawsuits brought by former students and sexual abuse victims of former university physician Richard Strauss. Ohio State and the victims are in mediation talks, but no settlement has been reached.
    Under Drake, Ohio State broke its records for graduation and retention rates, academic talent and diversity among incoming classes, research expenditures and annual fundraising. He has made "access and affordability" a focus of his presidency, implementing the first comprehensive tuition freeze for in-state students in 40 years. And since 2015, the university has budgeted more than $150 million in additional need-based aid to students, exceeding Drake’s goal of $100 million by 2020.
    "I'm entirely proud of the fact that we've been able to increase support to our students, to a degree that I believe is historic nationally," he said. "For an institution to give this much institutional aid to students, in this period of time, I think is great."
    But Drake’s tenure was also steeped in controversy, beginning with the investigation into a "sexualized culture" within the marching band, which he inherited upon his arrival, resulting in the contentious firing of band director Jon Waters.
    Last August brought a probe into former head football coach Urban Meyer and his handling of domestic violence allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. That resulted in a three-game suspension of Meyer and, later, the resignation of trustee Jeffrey Wadsworth over what he felt was too light a punishment.
    And the past two years brought concerns over the university’s handling of sexual abuse — both past and present. The university closed its Sexual Civility and Empowerment Center in June 2018 after a review found it wasn’t properly reporting sexual assaults. And in May, an independent investigation concluded the late university doctor Strauss sexually abused at least 177 Ohio State students from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, and that university officials at the time knew about the abuse and repeatedly failed to stop it. Various lawsuits representing nearly 300 plaintiffs indicate the number of victims is much higher.
    Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder this week urged university officials to "step up and take care of their obligation" to Strauss’ victims.
    Reflecting on the handling of each of those matters, Drake said, "We followed our principles and our values, which I would always do."
    Drake’s understanding of academic medical centers was part of what appealed to university trustees when they hired him nearly six years ago. While leadership concerns toward some medical center officials unfolded on Drake’s watch, the medical center has recently had strong financial years and an increasing number of patients.
    "I’m very excited about the progress at our medical center over the last five years," Drake said. "The medical center has always functioned well, but there was some tension within it, and the alignment of the members of the medical staff and the faculty and all, it has never been better."
    Former board of trustees chairman Michael J. Gasser resigned from the board in May. While his letter of resignation cited personal and private issues and made no mention of Drake, a university source told The Dispatch a "major rift" had developed between Gasser and the president.
    But Drake said he did not feel any pressure from the board to move on, adding that he felt he would have the board’s support if he wanted to remain for the length of his contract, which was to expire June 30, 2021.
    "Absolutely," he said. "Totally."
    In a written statement, board chairman Gary R. Heminger said, "The university has never been stronger, and there couldn’t be a better time to position a new leader for success."
    Other highlights of Drake’s presidency include:
    • • Establishing the Digital Flagship partnership with Apple, putting an iPad into the hands of every incoming undergraduate student.
    • • Approving a $1.1 billion, 50-year energy partnership deal.
    • • Creating Ohio State’s Institute for Teaching and Learning, aimed at advancing teaching and improving the student experience.
    • • Identifying more than $200 million in efficiency savings.
    • • Creating the Buckeye Opportunity Program, which covers remaining tuition costs for low- and moderate-income Ohio students after other aid has been applied.

    During his presidency, Drake also served as chair of the NCAA, the Association of American Universities and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
    Drake, the 15th president of the university, hopes to squeeze in at least one more state tour, an Ohio State tradition he said he has grown quite fond of.
    He said there is still work to do, and he looks forward to ensuring the university is in the best place it can be when he retires.
    "If I’m running a lap, I want to make sure when we pass off the baton that we have the biggest possible lead," he said. "We’re running all the time to make that happen."

    Ohio State University President Plans To Retire Next Year

    Image result for ohio state
    COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State University President Michael Drake plans to retire from that role next year after a tenure highlighted by strategic successes but also complicated by scandals involving the university’s marching band, a prominent football coach and a former team doctor accused of widespread sexual abuse.
    Drake, 69, announced the move Thursday, saying he felt the timing is right both for the school and his family. He plans to stay on at least until this academic year ends and remain on the faculty after that.
    “Ohio State has enjoyed record successes in several of our most important strategic markers and has tremendous momentum,” Drake said in a statement. “It was important to (my wife) Brenda and me that the university be accelerating on a path forward as we decided to begin the transition.”
    Ohio State said it will conduct a search for his replacement.
    The university lauded a long list of strategic successes under Drake’s leadership, including record numbers for the school in applications, graduates, research expenditures and donor support. His performance as president had satisfied university trustees enough that they took early action to extend his contract into 2021 and on Thursday approved increasing his salary by 2.5%, to nearly $892,000.
    But Drake, an ophthalmologist by training, has repeatedly found himself in the spotlight of negative national attention while leading the Buckeyes. He had left his role as an administrator in the University of California system in 2014 to succeed E. Gordon Gee in the top post at Ohio State.
    Just a few weeks into the job, Drake fired Ohio State’s marching band director after an investigation that began before he arrived found a sexualized culture in the band.
    The decision upset many members and alumni of the band, but Drake insisted the director should be held accountable for the band’s practices, even those based on generations of tradition.
    Drake’s strident response to the band controversy prompted the U.S. Department of Education to close its four-year investigation into Ohio State’s handling of sexual abuse cases early, citing the standard he’d set for future conduct.
    He proceeded to build a five-year financial plan; to expand financial aid to needy students, part of a $400 million commitment over five years to improve student access and value; and to put forward the first comprehensive plan to freeze tuition, fees and room and board on the Columbus campus in more than 40 years.
    After the CEO Drake had recruited for OSU Wexner Medical Center resigned amid criticism in 2017, positive student news followed.
    Fall enrollment that year hit a record high 66,444 students, which included a record 20% minority students - a particular accolade for the university’s first black president. Incoming freshmen that year had the highest ACT scores the university had seen to date.
    Last year, Ohio State suspended football coach Urban Meyer for three games for mishandling domestic abuse and other allegations against a former assistant coach, drawing criticism from many sides.
    A university trustee who advocated a harsher punishment - the same man who’d led the search committee that recommended Drake - immediately resigned from the board. Meyer later stepped down as coach after last season, citing a health problem, and became an assistant athletic director.
    The wave of criticism over the Meyer case came as Drake and the university were dealing with emerging allegations that school officials years ago knew about but turned a blind eye to widespread, decades-old sexual misconduct by a now-deceased team doctor, Richard Strauss.
    After a law firm investigation funded by Ohio State concluded that Strauss abused athletes and other young men throughout his two decades there, Drake apologized publicly for the school’s failure to stop the doctor.
    Nearly 300 men have sued the university over that failure, and those lawsuits are in mediation toward a potential settlement. Some of the men have vocally criticized Ohio State and its leadership for not resolving the matter more quickly.
    Drake’s retirement announcement Thursday came the same day a group of Strauss accusers again attended a trustees’ meeting to urge the university to take more responsibility for what happened.

    During the meeting, trustees thanked Drake for his leadership and honored him with a round of applause.

    Ohio State Rallies Past Wisconsin To Capture Third Straight Big Ten Championship

    Bill Rabinowitz, The Columbus Dispatch Published 12:59 a.M. ET Dec. 8, 2019 | Updated 1:22 a.M. ET Dec. 8, 2019
    USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg breaks down college football's all-time greatest championship games from the BCS era. USA TODAY
    INDIANAPOLIS — Wisconsin threw a minor scare into Ohio State in October.
    The Badgers did more than that Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game.
    But No. 2 Ohio State took several roundhouse punches from No. 10 Wisconsin before rallying for a 34-21 victory in front of a partisan Buckeyes crowd 66,649 at Lucas Oil Stadium. 
    K.J. Hill, who became Ohio State’s career leader in receptions, caught two touchdown passes in the second half as the Buckeyes rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit.
    The Buckeyes won their third straight conference championship, becoming the first Big Ten team ever to win three consecutive outright titles.
    Now the question is whether the victory was enough to keep the Buckeyes atop the final College Football Playoff rankings when they are announced Sunday. Ohio State had the edge on LSU and Clemson heading into this week, but both of those teams had dominating victories in their conference title games.
    Football Four: College Football Playoff avoids chaos, but there's a change at No. 1
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    The Buckeyes (13-0) had all they could handle from Wisconsin (10-3). The Badgers kept Ohio State off-kilter throughout the first half. The Buckeyes had trouble protecting Justin Fields, who was playing with a knee brace to protect a sprained left knee. They had trouble stopping Wisconsin star running back Jonathan Taylor, and Badgers quarterback Jack Coan made plays with his arm and legs.
    Wisconsin played Ohio State tough into the third quarter of their Oct. 26 game in Columbus. The Buckeyes led only 10-7 after a Badgers touchdown early in the third quarter of that game before scoring the game’s final 28 points.
    The Buckeyes needed a similar second half on Saturday. A 50-yard completion from Fields to Chris Olave set up a 16-yard, one-handed touchdown catch by Jeremy Ruckart to pull the Buckeyes within 21-14.
    Ohio State’s defense followed with a three-and-out, and Wisconsin punter Anthony Lotti dropped the ball as he attempted to kick it. The Buckeyes took over at the 16 but had to settle for a field goal.
    After Wisconsin missed a 49-yard field goal, the Buckeyes drove 69 yards for the go-ahead score. Hill had a 10-yard catch on third down to break David Boston’s career record of 191 to start the drive. He ended it with a 16-yard touchdown catch to give Ohio State its first lead, 24-21, with 2:23 left in the third quarter.
    The swarming Buckeyes defense shut down the Badgers again, Ohio State followed with another touchdown drive, with Fields connecting on a 13-yard to Hill for the score.
    Fields finished 19-of-31 for 299 yards. J.K. Dobbins had 172 yards on 33 carries.
    The second half explosion was a complete reversal from the first half, which Wisconsin dominated. Taylor, held to 52 yards in October, had 135 in the first half, including a 44-yard touchdown on the game’s first possession.
    After two Ohio State drives were stopped inside the Wisconsin 40, the Badgers went 80 yards in 14 plays for a touchdown, the final 14 coming when Coan drew several Buckeyes away on a fake to Taylor and ran through a big hole up the middle.
    Ohio State finally cashed in late in the second quarter by going 71 yards, with a 27-yard reception by Hill setting up a 2-yard Dobbins score.

    Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins scores a touchdown in the Big Ten title game. (Photo: Thomas J. Russo, USA TODAY Sports)
    With 42 seconds left and Wisconsin having only one timeout, the Buckeyes figured to go into halftime trailing by only a touchdown. But Taylor broke a 45-yard run off left tackle to the Ohio State 30. Quintez Cephus then caught a pass despite being interfered with by Cam Brown — Ohio State star cornerback Jeff Okudah left the game early with an injury before returning in the second half – to the 1. Coan then scored with 10 seconds left for a 21-7 halftime lead.
    That touchdown figured to give the Badgers momentum going into the second half, but the Buckeyes’ defense dominated from then on, blanking Wisconsin in the second half.
    Coan threw for 100 yards in the first half. He threw for only 65 yards in the second half, but most came on a last-ditch drive that ended with Taylor swarmed on fourth down for a loss at the Ohio State 39. Taylor gained only 13 yards in the second half to finish with 148.
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    Sorry, Ohio State And Clemson, But LSU Is The True No. 1 In A Loaded College Football Playoff Field

    There was a time -- a month ago, in fact -- when LSU's defense was bad.
    It wasn't a crazy narrative. Ole Miss -- before mimicking dogs or firing coaches or hiring Lane Kiffin -- put up a mind-boggling 614 yards on LSU's defense. Sure, the Tigers won easily, but boy that defense. No way this was the No. 1 team in the country.
    And now?
    Derek Stingley's second interception of the game in Saturday's SEC championship (a 37-10 LSU win) sealed what was assuredly one of the most impressive defensive performances of the season for a College Football Playoff contender, an utter dismantling of Georgia's entire game plan in which Jake Fromm, the same QB who nearly upended Alabama in each of the past two years, looked overwhelmed.
    play
    0:37
    Tigers freshman Derek Stingley Jr. Becomes first player with two interceptions in the SEC championship since 2000.
    That bad LSU defense has now given up only 42% completions, 2.6 yards per rush and racked up 12 sacks in the three games since the Ole Miss debacle. Yes, this is probably the country's No. 1 team.
    Meanwhile Saturday, Ohio State made the case a bit easier for the committee, too. The Buckeyes had dominated Wisconsin in the teams' previous meeting this season, but they looked lost in a woeful first half that ended with a 21-7 Badgers lead and a flurry of analysts wondering what this all means. But, of course, Ohio State is still Ohio State, and for another year, the committee dodged a bullet. There are no worries about whether Ohio State still deserves its bid or whether Wisconsin might get in with two losses or even whether the Buckeyes should remain atop the poll.
    For yet another year, the committee's job is pretty simple.
    2 Related
    What awaits in the playoff is a mystery. There are at least three very good teams moving forward, and that makes for an interesting field.
    What happened Saturday, however, tied up the regular season quite nicely.
    Is Joe Burrow the easy Heisman vote? Answer: Absolutely. Burrow was dominant against a tough UGA defense, and the Heisman trust might as well start polishing his trophy now.
    Is LSU's defense good enough to win it all? Answer: For sure. There's an adjustment period for any defense when the offense starts scoring the way LSU has this season. The tempo changes, the approach changes, the foundation of what LSU wanted to do defensively changed. But Stingley is still a superstar, Grant Delpit is still a first-round NFL talent and Dave Aranda still knows how to coach 'em up. The Tigers are hitting their stride at just the right time.
    Is Ohio State No. 1? Answer: Nope. That's no knock on the Buckeyes, but their game Saturday showed flaws we hadn't seen before. It showed strengths, too, to come back and erase that Wisconsin lead to pull away with what was ultimately a fairly easy win. Still, this is nitpicking time, and comparing the résumés of Ohio State and LSU requires a magnifying glass to parse. The slow start against Wisconsin is enough to push LSU -- with its wins over Texas, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and Georgia -- into the top spot.
    play
    0:51
    Trevor Lawrence says Clemson is ready for the College Football Playoff and to prove the Tigers are the best team the country.
    Is Clemson still a real contender? Answer: No doubt about it. The Tigers couldn't have looked much better as Trevor Lawrence and Tee Higgins offered a prime-time reminder that, yes, this is still the team that destroyed Alabama less than a year ago to win a national championship.
    Does anyone want the No. 4 spot? Answer: Oklahoma by default. The Sooners' win Saturday wasn't their most dominant, but it was a win -- and that's all that matters thanks to Utah's loss on Friday and Wisconsin's second-half slump Saturday. Oklahoma will not be favored entering the playoff, but Jalen Hurts has been here, the defense has made strides and the No. 4 seed has more titles in the past five years (2) than the No. 1 seeds (0).
    Saturday's theatrics mean Sunday will have little drama. The committee has four clear-cut cases. That's a good thing because there's a strong case to be made that this is, in fact, the best four-team playoff field we've had yet.
    Who wants Clemson? play
    2:47
    Virginia has no answers for Tee Higgins who goes off for 182 yards and three touchdowns in Clemson's 62-17 win. Trevor Lawrence finishes with four TDs and 302 yards in the win.
    There are two facts that have largely dictated the narrative surrounding Clemson all season. The first is simple enough. The Tigers are the defending champs, and it's awfully hard to doubt a team filled with players who just won it all less than a year ago. On the other hand, with the Tigers' 62-17 evisceration of Virginia on Saturday -- and the ensuing likelihood UVa falls from the top 25 as a result -- Clemson will not own a win against a ranked opponent.
    Ask Dabo Swinney about those two narratives, however, and he'll argue with both of them. Last year, he has said repeatedly, is over. This is a new team. Clemson isn't defending anything, but rather trying to win a new title. But listen to Swinney complain about the media, the committee and the voters over the past week, and it's pretty clear he's not a fan of anyone doubting Clemson because of that weak schedule, either.
    What is perhaps the most relevant talking point on Clemson was the one on display Saturday. Trevor Lawrence, after some early-season hiccups, threw for 302 yards and four TDs and now looks every bit as dominant as he was during last year's playoff run, perhaps even better. Travis Etienne, who ran for 114 yards against Virginia, is still the country's most explosive back. Tee Higgins put on a performance Saturday that rewrote the ACC championship game record book. Xavier Thomas, Justyn Ross, Isaiah Simmons -- they're all still quite good.
    So while Clemson's dominance Saturday meant, once again, there was little drama in the ACC championship game, there was assuredly some nail-biting among Ohio State and LSU fans who would much rather not see the Tigers on Dec. 28.
    Heisman Five play
    0:34
    Joe Burrow puts defenders on ice skates and completes a 71-yard pass to Justin Jefferson which eventually leads to an LSU touchdown.

    1. Joe Burrow, LSU

    How do you put an exclamation point on your Heisman résumé? How's four TDs and 390 yards versus one of the best defenses in the country in a dominant win in the SEC championship game? Yes, that'll do nicely. It might not have been the guy everyone was talking about preseason, but for the third straight year, the Heisman will go to a transfer QB.

    2. Justin Fields, Ohio State

    He looked shaky in the first half, but whatever Ryan Day told the team at halftime certainly worked for Fields, who finished Saturday's come-from-behind win with 299 passing yards and three touchdowns. It's not enough to overtake Burrow, but Fields is more than deserving of runner-up status.

    3. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

    It was Deshaun Watson's unfortunate fate, too, that his Heisman campaigns in 2015 and 2016 only heated up late, and so it is for Lawrence, who might have a real shot to win if the voting were done after the postseason. As it is, his past six games: 76% completions, 11.14 yards/attempt, 22 total touchdowns and no turnovers.

    4. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

    Seven turnovers in his final five games probably ended Hurts' Heisman campaign, and only one TD in a too-close-for-comfort Big 12 title game wasn't a great final note to voters, but Hurts will probably be plenty happy with a conference championship and possible playoff bid now.

    5. Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State

    The QBs were at the top of the Heisman talk all season, but it's worth noting that this has been one heck of a year for tailbacks, too. In any other year, Hubbard is a clear-cut Heisman finalist. Heck, in any other year, Jonathan Taylor would be, too. Or maybe J.K. Dobbins. Or Travis Etienne. Or AJ Dillon. It's been a heck of a year for the runners, but there's just too much QB talent ahead of them.
    A game of "what if"
    Nick Saban went ballistic when officials put one second back on the clock at the end of the first half against Auburn last week, and that second translated into a field goal for the Tigers, and that field goal was the difference in the game.
    But the impact of that one second is still being felt now.
    With Utah's loss in the Pac-12 title game and Georgia's loss to LSU in the SEC title game, it's entirely possible -- heck, likely -- that one second cost Alabama a playoff bid. It'd be down to Oklahoma or Alabama, with the Tide's lone loss coming in a relatively close game to an elite LSU, as opposed to the Sooners falling to Kansas State. Given the history at Alabama, it might not have been a long conversation in the committee room about putting the Tide in and leaving the Sooners out.
    Instead, Auburn won the Iron Bowl thanks to a minor tweak of the clock, and the reverberations echoed all the way to Norman, Oklahoma.
    So long, farewell
    Memphis head coach Mike Norvell has landed at Florida State, while the Lane Train is pulling out of the station at Florida Atlantic to take the head coaching job at Ole Miss.
    And both guys went out on a high note.
    Norvell and Memphis erased a slim Cincinnati lead in the fourth quarter to upend the Bearcats for the second time in the past two weeks to win the American Athletic Conference title.
    Meanwhile, Lane Kiffin's offense exploded for 585 yards, 29 first downs and the defense held UAB to only 84 passing yards in a 49-6 win.
    For Kiffin, it was his second Conference USA title in his three years at FAU.
    Classy move by Matt Rhule
    For the second time in a month, Baylor lost a heartbreaker to Oklahoma. This one also ended the Bears' hopes for the playoff, as they fell 30-23 in overtime. But Matt Rhule wasn't going to play the role of sore loser, instead offering a gracious message to Lincoln Riley and the Sooners.
    Big bets and bad beats





  • The Sun Belt wrapped its season with a bang -- for bettors of the over, at least. The total for the game closed at 58, which seemed reasonable considering only 24 points were scored when Appalachian State and Louisiana met in the regular season in a 17-7 Mountaineers win. Saturday was a different story, with 28 points on the board before the first quarter ended, a 35-17 App State lead at the half and the total going over midway through the third quarter.

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  • Cincinnati had a strong drive going in the final minute against Memphis in the AAC championship game, setting up with a first down at the Memphis 21 with 43 seconds to play. A touchdown would have been a win for Cincinnati -- and it would have pushed the game over the total of 58.5. Instead, the drive stalled, and the Bearcats turned it over on downs, with the under covering by 5.5 points.
  • Ohio State was a cover machine in first halves this year, which made Saturday's slow start (OSU trailed 21-7 at halftime) vs. Wisconsin even more shocking. Through the first 12 weeks of the season, the Buckeyes had covered their first-half spread 11 times -- the lone exception being the Rutgers game, when Ohio State led 35-7 at the half. In fact, entering Saturday, no team in the country averaged more in the first half than Ohio State's 30 points per game before the break, nor had anyone led by a wider average margin than the Buckeyes (25.5 points per game).
  • Under-the-radar play of the day
    Baylor was down to its third string QB, but Jacob Zeno announced his arrival with his first pass of the game, a laser to Trestan Ebner that turned into an 81-yard TD. Zeno's next throw was nearly as impressive -- another laser, this time to Chris Platt for 78 yards that set up a tying field goal. The only problem? He didn't complete another pass the rest of the way.
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    Trestan Ebner leaps up to snag a catch and takes off for an 81-yard touchdown to cut into Oklahoma's lead.
    Under-the-radar game of the day
    Didn't get enough FBS drama Saturday? Northern Iowa and South Dakota State offered plenty more at the FCS level, with UNI booting an 18-yard field goal with 2:10 to play to win 13-10 in what was either a terrific defensive battle or, perhaps, a showcase of offensive ineptitude. Neither team cracked 240 yards of offense, and South Dakota State blew a 10-0 lead thanks to three turnovers. UNI now moves on to face 12-1 James Madison in the FCS quarterfinals.

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