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Urban Meyer more interested in Michigan State than potential larger problems for Buckeyes

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 12:35 PM

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer speaks at Media Day on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff
David Jablonski
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer speaks at Media Day on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus. David Jablonski/Staff(David Jablonski)

Urban Meyer’s general response after his team was blown out by Iowa on Saturday was, “I don’t know.” 

He had a few more answers Monday as his team began preparations for Michigan State, but plenty of questions remain. 

RELATED: 6 takeaways from Ohio State’s loss

The most pointed inquiry was about the direction of the program after a third surprising Big Ten loss in as many seasons. 

After re-stating the question — “Where’s the program headed?” — he paused, grinned and chose to focus on this week’s opponent. 

“We’ve just go to beat — we’re playing Michigan State this week,” Meyer said of the 13th-ranked Spartans, who upset Penn State on Saturday. “We’ve got to really practice well. Fix the turnover issue on offense. Play a little better on defense. The kicking was much better.”

Two years ago, Michigan State traveled to Ohio Stadium and beat the defending national champion-Buckeyes despite not having star quarterback Connor Cook. 

Last season, a trip to then-unranked Penn State stunned Buckeye Nation in Happy Valley, although the Nittany Lions ended up finishing the season in the top 10. 

Both of those results kept Ohio State out of the Big Ten championship game, but the Buckeyes can avoid that this time around if they win their last three games. 

Clemson’s win-or-go-home mentality continues, but now it gets tough

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 9:53 PM

I’ve compared the home stretch of Clemson’s season to a bigger, March Madness-style bracket before, and it remains that way … sort of.

It began with the trip to Raleigh at the beginning of November, where the Tigers had to beat North Carolina State to have a shot at winning the ACC Atlantic once again. Thanks to a few clutch plays by K’Von Wallace to ice the game, mission accomplished. The journey continued at home a week later against a depleted but still scrappy Florida State team, against which Clemson again needed timely defensive plays to dispatch after things got hairy.

A final home game against the Citadel last Saturday constituted a lull in the action. The 61-3 win was akin to a breather before the final push, where some of the guys who hadn’t gotten a ton of playing time this season got into the game and kept the starters free of injury. It was Senior Day, as well, and it’s always nice to have that fall on a day where you can relax without worrying about the outcome or chewing your nails off in anxiety.

But that’s it. It’s go time now. Two games against ranked opponents are all that stand between No. 3 Clemson and another appearance in the College Football Playoff — a fact which also belies how tough the task at hand actually is. South Carolina doesn’t resemble the middling 6-7 team that Clemson blasted out of Death Valley last season. No, these Gamecocks are playing well, which is even more impressive when you consider the injuries that team has had to deal with. As if the importance of not underestimating South Carolina wasn’t any more apparent, the Gamecocks entered the CFP rankings for the first time this year on Tuesday, landing at No. 24 to make this a ranked matchup and hammer home how much better the opponent is this season than last.

And if Clemson pulls off a fourth straight win in the rivalry, a date with presumably undefeated No. 2 Miami awaits in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 2.

The Hurricanes made it interesting last week and nearly yanked the anticipation right out from under themselves when falling behind to Virginia, but they stormed back (no pun intended) to win 44-28.

It has the makings of a titanic showdown, and even if Clemson or Miami should lose this week, the winner of that game will still have a good shot at being included in the top 4 of the final CFP rankings. Clemson’s loss to Syracuse continues to look worse and worse, and it’s not unreasonable to ask how long the committee is willing to excuse it, even though Kelly Bryant didn’t play in the second half.

A to South Carolina might still be deemed enough of a quality loss to not completely sink Clemson’s chances assuming they win the conference title game. To even be in that position in the first place would mean falling to the Gamecocks, something Clemson has absolutely no intention of doing.

The margin for error is razor thin. Win out, though, and Clemson can worry about the rankings later. You can only play who’s in front of you, and if the Tigers take care of business, they won’t have to worry about anything.

Trevor Siemian will be Denver Broncos backup QB in Week 12

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 1:26 AM

The Denver Broncos quarterback carousel continued on Tuesday afternoon when the team named Paxton Lynch their starter for their Week 12 game against the Oakland Raiders. Denver also announced that it will be Trevor Siemian, not Brock Osweiler, backing up Lynch on Sunday afternoon.

Lynch will be Denver’s third starting quarterback of the 2017 season, and the former Memphis star will be making the third start of his young NFL career. He went 1-1 in two starts in 2016, completing 59% of his passes for 497 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a quarterback rating of 79.2.

Lynch may have lost out to Siemian during the Broncos training camp and offseason quarterback competition, but there is no denying that the former first-round pick is the most physically gifted signal caller on Denver’s roster.

With a 3-7 overall record, the Broncos hopes of making the playoffs are essentially non-existent. The time has come for them to start getting extended looks at some of their younger players (such as Lynch) to see which guys have the potential to have a future with the franchise.

LSU loses starting guard Brandon Sampson to injury in loss to Notre Dame

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 12:44 AM

A blowout 92-53 defeat to Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational was not the most painful loss for LSU on Tuesday night. The Tigers also lost starting shooting guard Brandon Sampson to a serious ankle injury just 30 seconds into the game.

Sampson rolled his left ankle landing on the foot of a Notre Dame player after a jump shot. He was taken to a local hospital for X-rays, per school spokesman Kent Lowe.

Sampson returned to the Lahaina Civic Center just a minute or so before the game ended.

As the final score demonstrated, Sampson is one of the most vital components of first-year head coach Will Wade’s new-look Tigers.

The junior from Baton Rouge is the most versatile player in the LSU lineup, ranking second on the team in scoring with 13.3 points per game and first in rebounding with 5 boards per game. He has also been LSU’s most effective defender early in the season.

SEC Country’s other observations from the Maui Invitational semifinal:

Notre Dame is where LSU aspires to be

The 13th-ranked Fighting Irish are an elite basketball team this year. It takes a strong starting backcourt to reach the Final Four, and senior point guard Matt Farrell and sophomore TJ Gibbs provide the Irish with precisely that capability. Farrell had 17 points and 7 assists and Gibbs led all scorers with 26 points.

LSU is still growing by leaps and bounds over where it was at last season, but the Tigers simply don’t have the ability to compete with the nation’s elite just yet. That only became more true when Sampson was hurt.

Tremont Waters will have days like this

Freshman point guard Tremont Waters was sensational in LSU’s 77-75 upset win over Michigan Monday night. Against Notre Dame, he came back to earth.

Gibbs hounded Waters all night, limiting him to 8 points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field while forcing 3 turnovers.

LSU’s offense has to improve against elite defenses

The SEC is a vastly improved basketball conference this season. In order to compete in the league, the Tigers will have to improve their offensive efficiency.

LSU came into the game making 60 percent of its field goals. Against Notre Dame, the Tigers shot just 37 percent from the field to go along with 17 turnovers.

The 3-Pointer: What we learned from Alabama basketball win over UT-Arlington

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 12:09 AM

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama basketball won a 77-76 thriller over UT-Arlington on Tuesday night to improve to 4-0 on the young season.

Alabama got 29 points from freshman phenom Collin Sexton, and 22 points from its bench.

Alabama battled back after being down by as many as 12 points in the first half.

Alabama coach Avery Johnson said it was a great win for the team and the program after not being able to close out some of these tight contests last season.

Collin Sexton’s offensive explosion

Sexton was the majority of Alabama’s offense on Tuesday night. He poured in a game-high 29 points in his third game of the season.

Sexton was efficient from the floor, shooting 53 percent (8-of-15). Sexton also knocked down two threes and made 11 of 14 free throws.

“I feel like when the lights are on, I have to play,” Sexton said. “I have to show up.”

In his three games this season, Sexton has scored 22, 25 and 29 points.

Herbert Jones does everything well

Simply put, freshman Herbert Jones does every single thing well. Jones finished with 7 points, 9 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists and took 4 charges on Tuesday night.

Jones does a lot of things that also don’t show up in the stat sheet like guarding multiple positions on the defensive end.

Jones has shown the ability to handle the ball on the break, shoot the 3, pass well and defend the opposing team’s best player.

Tough early test

UT-Arlington is a really good team. Alabama coach Avery Johnson said multiple times that UTA guard Erick Neal and forward Kevin Hervey could play anywhere in the country. The duo combined for 40 of UTA’s points.

Barring something unforeseen, UTA will make the tournament, meaning this win could be big for Alabama’s resume down the line.

This game provided Alabama with a tough early test, and the Crimson Tide responded well.

Now we’ll see how they build on this as Alabama travels to Brooklyn for the Barclay Center Classic.

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