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Ohio State, Cincinnati announce basketball series

Published: Tuesday, October 03, 2017 @ 12:53 PM

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 22:  Sean Kilpatrick #23 of the Cincinnati Bearcats goes to the hoop against Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during their 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Semifinal game at TD Garden on March 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 22: Sean Kilpatrick #23 of the Cincinnati Bearcats goes to the hoop against Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during their 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Semifinal game at TD Garden on March 22, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Ohio State and Cincinnati gave their basketball fans something to get excited about Tuesday with the announcement of a future home-and-home series between the programs. 

The Buckeyes will be the first opponent at UC’s Fifth Third Arena when it re-opens next season after an extensive renovation. That will be Ohio State’s game at UC since 1920. 

The Bearcats will make a trip to Columbus in the fall of 2019, though the exact date hasn’t been announced for either game. 

Both games will be season-openers. 

SPORTS TODAY: Reds have some good problems heading into this offseason, Buckeyes continue growing, etc.

Although the teams have rich basketball histories, they have only played 10 times, most notably in 1961 and ’62 when the Bearcats upset powerful Ohio State teams led by Middletown’s Jerry Lucas in consecutive national championship games. 

RELATED: Ohio needs a yearly college basketball event

The Buckeyes won the most recent matchup, an 81-66 decision in the Sweet 16 in 2012. 

In-state competition has been a hot topic for years among, and new Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann told fans at a summer meet-and-greet he was open to scheduling teams like the Bearcats, Dayton and Xavier. 

Michigan’s offense remains minimal with QB John O’Korn

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Here’s the positive: Michigan quarterback John O’Korn improved from his last outing.

Here’s the negative: O’Korn was Michigan’s quarterback in its 42-13 loss Saturday at No. 2 Penn State.

Until Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says otherwise, O’Korn will remain Michigan’s starting quarterback, despite the continued calls from the fan base to make Brandon Peters the starter, and despite the lack of pizzazz in the offense.

O’Korn finished with 166 yards on 16-of-28 passing, nearly tripling his output of 58 passing yards last weekend in a win at Indiana. But he bore the brunt of the offensive shortcomings, particularly those of the offensive line, as he was sacked seven times.

Michigan’s offense couldn’t keep up with the scorching pace Penn State set by scoring touchdowns on its first two drives. The Wolverines went three-and-out on their first two drives, accruing minus-5 yards rushing in the game’s first 5 minutes.

“Early on, especially the first two drives, we put our defense in a little bit of a hole,” O’Korn said. “Then, we were finally able to get things clicking and get things rolling. Halftime came and we were in the position to get the ball out at halftime. I think we were down eight [points]. We were right where we wanted to be.”

But, he added, “After starting slow we weren’t able to make enough big plays today to come out with the win.”

Michigan couldn’t match Penn State’s dynamic offense, spearheaded by quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley strengthened his bid as a Heisman Trophy candidate with 3 touchdowns, including a highlight-reel scoring catch in the fourth quarter in which he bobbled the ball into the end zone.

Michigan had no answer for McSorley (282 yards passing), Barkley (176 all-purpose yards) or Penn State’s offense when it broke the game open in the fourth quarter.

While O’Korn showed more poise, he had little room to take chances to help Michigan make any substantial movement; Penn State loaded the box, which limited Michigan on the run and forced it to pass.

O’Korn did just enough to manage the game. Not to win the game, but to control the offense, which finished with a scant 269 yards. O’Korn’s longest throw was 24 yards, on third-and-7 from the Michigan 32-yard-line in the fourth quarter. That was also Michigan’s longest play.

The Wolverines gained an average of 3.8 yards a play against the Nittany Lions — who averaged 8.3 yards a play.

“We weren’t able to make big plays tonight,” O’Korn said. “We put drives together. We were moving the ball nicely. The big plays were just missing.”

LSU is totally different team with healthy Arden Key and Derrius Guice, which bodes well vs. Bama game

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

OXFORD, Miss. — This is what a fully formed LSU team built around running back Derrius Guice and outside linebacker Arden Key is supposed to look like.

It looks like history, with Guice becoming the first running back in SEC history with three career games over 250 yards rushing.

It looks like pressure, with Key taking the teeth out of the SEC’s most potent passer on a pair of sacks and a hurry that put Shea Patterson into the arms of Christian LaCouture for another.

And it looks like energy, with the natural enthusiasm of LSU’s top playmakers spilling over to the other 10 players on the field.

Does all that look good enough to beat Alabama in two weeks?

Well, let’s not rain on the parade before it even hits the street. But the Tigers have to feel better about their chances in the annual monumental showdown than they did when Guice and Key were unable to produce in the manner everyone knew them to be capable of.

“Big plays fuel emotion,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “When you start running the football and getting sacks, playing LSU football, it gives everyone a lot of confidence. When the other team makes big plays, you get a little nervous.”

There weren’t many moments where LSU needed to bite its fingernails against the Rebels. As long as Guice was back there — and Darrel Williams too, for that matter — there wasn’t much to worry about.

Guice was the first to admit that his 22-carry, 276-yard performance was a long time coming. He hadn’t eclipsed the 100-yard barrier since LSU’s Week 2 game against Troy, and won’t allow his once-sprained knee to be used as an excuse for falling short.

“There ain’t no ‘Old Derrius,'” Guice said. “The way I’ve played this year, that’s me. Injured or not. There aren’t any excuses. It is what it is. … I’m not 100 percent. But I’m going to give my all for my team no matter how I’m feeling.”

If this still isn’t Guice at 100 percent, one can only grin at what might lie ahead after a bye week.

The same can be said of Key, who by far had his most productive game since his return from a spring semester leave of absence from the program and offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of LSU’s first two games.

“I’d say Arden is at 1,000 percent,” said defensive tackle Greg Gilmore.

Cornerback Donte Jackson said Key’s impact cannot be understated. It’s not just the sacks. His presence also forces quarterbacks to make hurried decisions, and that means Patterson might not be the only quarterback who runs the risk of throwing 3 interceptions against the LSU defense.

“Arden’s a beast,” Jackson said. “We always knew he’d be back to his old self and that is what he’s doing. He’s getting back to himself and that’s what we need. We need quarterbacks and offensive linemen to fear that edge rusher. As a defensive back, that really is a great key.”

Really a great Key, and really a great Guice. LSU had both against Ole Miss. In two weeks, the same combination can give the Tigers a glimmer of hope.

Many positives for Auburn football at Arkansas, but not the positive fans want

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

There’s no shortage of positives for Auburn football fans to take away from the Tigers’ 52-20 bludgeoning of Arkansas on Saturday night. The problem is that they can’t take away the positive they really  want.

That positive, of course, would be greater hope the Tigers can build on their performance in Fayetteville with enhanced offensive production against Texas A&M and — especially, particularly, desperately — Georgia. But after Auburn’s implosion against LSU last week, that ship hasn’t just sailed; that ship has its mainsail hoisted, its jib scuttled and is already halfway to Barbuda at a speed of a dozen knots.

It’s true: No less than your humble Auburn writer himself said after a similar destruction of Mississippi State that Tigers fans shouldn’t give up hope for better results against better competition, that willfully ignoring the good things Auburn did in the present to focus on the bad things Auburn would probably do in the future was too cynical. But that was before Baton Rouge, where an excuse-less Auburn showed once and for all that any amount of optimism entering one of the Tigers’ most meaningful games is too much optimism.

It’s a shame, because there truly were a  lot of positives from the Tigers’ second consecutive demolition of Bret Bielema’s Hogs. To wit:

Gus Malzahn made a concerted effort to correct the mistakes of the LSU debacle.  The Tigers consistently mixed up their play calls on first down, pointedly kicking the game off with a throw on Auburn’s first play from scrimmage; they flashed a long-missing willingness to go up-tempo when sensing they had Arkansas off-guard, leading to one of the most comical 15-yard touchdowns in SEC history; they ignored the temptation to nurse their lead in the third quarter, going so far as to uncork a picture-perfect Ryan Davis reverse pass; they even coaxed (or permitted) Jarrett Stidham into keeping on the zone read, finally grabbing the free yards that have been available on the same play call for weeks.

Even if every one of these developments felt “too little, too late,” seeing them Saturday remains far preferable to not seeing them at all.

Kamryn Pettway looked like something akin to 2016 Kamryn Pettway. The one-two punch Auburn expected to boast at tailback all season finally materialized, with Kerryon Johnson maintaining his post-September success and Pettway showing glimmers of the power and shiftiness that made him the SEC’s leading rusher less than 11 months ago. He might not be all the way back just yet, but he’s closer to back than he’s been since his (unnecessary) pounding against Mercer.

This Auburn defense kept doing the things this Auburn defense does. 6 sacks, 3 turnovers forced (and if you watched Jeff Holland and Co. hunting poor Cole Kelley in a manner more befitting of a nature documentary filmed on the African savanna, you know we  mean “forced,” under 5 yards allowed per play, 56 minutes played without conceding a Razorback touchdown.

Kevin Steele’s merry band of marauders has been a joy to watch all season. Nothing changed on that front Saturday.

Auburn’s cumulative two-season whipping of Arkansas finished at a final score of 108-23. Malzahn deserves every bit of the criticism he’s endured over the past week. But he also deserves  some credit for administering the hellacious beatings suffered at the Tigers’ hands by several SEC West rivals over the past two seasons. Ask Tennessee: Things could be much better on the Plains right now, but they could also be much, much worse.

Malzahn’s problem? Even the Auburn fans who know things could be better no longer believe they  will be. Yes, his team’s performance Saturday generated an abundance of positives. So did its performance against Memphis to end the 2015 season. So did its performances against Mississippi State and Arkansas last season. So did its performances against Mississippi State and Ole Miss this season.

To borrow an old line: We won’t be fooled again. Saturday was a blast. But it won’t mean anything until Malzahn proves it means something, in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11.

What Auburn said about Arkansas after defeating the Razorbacks

Published: Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 9:13 AM

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas was blown out by Auburn, 52-20, Saturday night at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

The Razorbacks (2-5 overall, 0-4 SEC) trailed 17-6 at halftime. The Tigers (6-2, 4-1) scored 21 unanswered points in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Arkansas will face Ole Miss on the road next Saturday.

But before we turn the page, here’s what the Tigers had to say about the Hogs following Saturday’s game:

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn

  • On scoring 28 points in the third quarter: “I think the third quarter we had one of best quarters of the year. We had some explosive plays and we got some tempo running.”
  • On defending Arkansas quarterback Cole Kelley: “That quarterback is a big man. I mean, he’s really big. He falls forward for a couple yards and he’s hard to get to, too. I thought our defense did a good job. For us to put the pressure on and knock the ball out a couple times was a big key to the game.”
  • On the adjustments made on offense: “We had a little success running and then they walked an extra guy down. We hit a pass play or two. I thought [offensive coordinator] Chip [Lindsey] did a very good job and his offensive staff did a very good job of keeping them off balance and taking what they give them.”
  • On how his teams have been able to put up so many points and yards against Arkansas in recent years: “I don’t know specifically. For this year, we were balanced, I felt like. I think probably the big thing was we were able to get the tempo going. That was a big factor.”
  • On forcing Arkansas to go three-and-out on consecutive possessions to end the first half: “That was one of the key things to the whole game. If we would’ve gave them any momentum right there, it would’ve got the crowd into it. That was huge right there.”

Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham

  • On if he knew Arkansas only had nine players on the field when he scored on a 15-yard run in the first quarter: “I did not. I mean, I knew we were going really fast and I knew they weren’t set up, lined up, but I was just locked in on my read. And it just kinda came at the right time.”

Auburn DL Derrick Brown

  • On playing against Kelley: “He is huge. Definitely got to keep getting shots on him. And once you’re getting shots on somebody like that, they kind of become hesitant.”