As college leaders meet, football players push to play

After the Power Five conference commissioners met Sunday to discuss mounting concern about whether a college football season can be played in a pandemic, players took to social media to urge leaders to let them play.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said no decisions on the season have been made, but conceded the outlook has not improved.

“Are we in a better place today than two weeks, ago?” he said. “No, we’re not.”

Bowlsby cited “growing evidence and the growing pool of data around myocarditis.”

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart and it has been found in some COVID-19 patients. There is concern it could be a long-term complication of contracting the virus even in young, healthy people, a group that has usually avoided severe cardiovascular symptoms.

Also Sunday night, the Big Ten’s university presidents and chancellors held a previously unscheduled meeting, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was not announced by the conference.

Another person with direct knowledge of the meeting speaking on condition of anonymity said no votes were taken or decisions made about the college football season.

The final call on whether major college football will played this season rests in the hands of the university presidents who oversee the largest conferences.

All this activity comes a day after the Mid-American Conference became the first among 10 leagues that play at the highest tier of Division I college football to cancel fall sports because of concerns about keeping athletes from contracting and spreading COVID-19.

The MAC’s decision came less than a month before the first games are scheduled to be played and raised questions if other conferences might follow.

Also on Saturday, the Big Ten slowed its ramp up to the season, announcing its teams would not be permitted to start full contact practices until further notice. The Big Ten season is scheduled to start Labor Day weekend.

Meanwhile, college football players took to social media Sunday to push for a season, led by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with a series of tweets.

“People are at just as much, if not more risk, if we don’t play,” Lawrence tweeted. “Players will all be sent home to their own communities where social distancing is highly unlikely and medical care and expenses will be placed on the families if they were to contract covid19.”

Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth had a similar message.

“Since day one coming back to campus the Penn State Football staff and medical experts have put our health and safety first, above anything else,” he tweeted. “The guidelines put into place keep us safe while playing the game we love. We are ready to play and we want to play.”

Other players tweeted with the hashtag #WeWantToPlay, and within a few hours that movement merged with another. Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Oklahoma State All-America running back Cuba Hubbard, Alabama running back Najee Harris and numerous other players from across the country posted a graphics with #WeWantToPlay and #WeAreUnited, the hashtag used by a group of Pac-12 players who announced a college player rights movement a week ago.

Under the logos of each Power Five conference — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — the players pronounced their platform:

— We all want to play football this season.

— Establish universal mandated health & safety procedures and protocols to protect college athletes against COVID-19 among all conferences throughout the NCAA.

— Give players the opportunity to opt out and respect their decision.

— Guarantee eligibility whether a player chooses to play the season or not.

— Use our voices to establish open communication and trust between players and officials: Ultimately create a College Football Players Association.

— Representative of all Power Five conferences.

The parents of Ohio State football players weighed in, too, posting a letter saying they were confident in the university’s plan to keep their sons safe.

“We believe that this age group represents some of the healthiest individuals, while we recognize the risk cannot be eliminated, we believe the risk is minimal and the season can safely and responsibly occur,” wrote the Football Parents Association at Ohio State.

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he has heard the same from Fighting Irish football players. Notre Dame has had only two COVID-19 cases since it began testing athletes.

“I’ve been around our guys and they thinks it’s safe and they want to try and play,” Swarbrick said. “If we change course, we better be able to articulate the reason for doing so to our student-athletes. They are going to want to know why.”

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Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott responds to football players threatening opt-outs

The Pac-12 responded Monday to football players who have threaten to opt-out of the season because of concerns related to health and safety, racial injustice and economic rights with a letter touting the conference’s work in those areas and an invitation to meet later this week.

A letter from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, dated Aug. 3, was sent to 12 football players leading the #WeAreUnited movement. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press and first reported by Sports Illustrated.

The players say they have been communicating with more than 400 of their peers throughout the Pac-12. The group released a lengthy list of demands Sunday and said if they are not addressed they will not practice or play. The group said it reached out to the Pac-12 on Sunday to request a meeting. In the letter, Scott said he was eager to discuss their concerns.

“I will come back to you in the coming days following discussion with our members and student-athlete leaders to schedule a call for this week to discuss the matters that you have raised,” Scott wrote.

Also Monday night, Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said in a statement he regretted cautioning one of his players about being part of the #WeAreUnited movement. A recording of a conversation between Rolovich and receiver Kassidy Woods obtained by the Dallas Morning News revealed the coach seemingly warning the player that being involved with the group would hurt his standing with the team. Woods had called Rolovich to inform him he was opting out of the season for health reasons related to COVID-19.

“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns,” said Rolovich, who is in his first season was Washington State coach. “Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”

The #WeAreUnited players’ demands focused on four areas: health and safety protections, especially protocols related to COVID-19; guarding against the elimination of sports programs by schools during an economic downturn; ending racial injustice in college sports; and economic freedom and equity.

Scott addressed each area, highlighting the conference’s:

— Medical advisory committee working on COVID-19 protocols and webinars for student-athletes and their parents;

— Support for reforming NCAA rules regarding name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes;

— Recent initiatives to address racial inequities such as the formation of a social justice & anti-racism advisory group that includes student-athletes representatives.

Scott also listed 10 areas in which, he wrote, “The Pac-12 has been a leader in supporting student-athlete health and well-being …” Included were enhanced medical coverage post-eligibility; cost-of-attendance stipends added to the value of scholarship; mental health support; and the Pac-12’s support of reforming NCAA transfer rules to allow athletes more freedom to switch schools.

Pac-12 football teams are scheduled to begin preseason practices Aug. 17 and the league’s conference-only regular season is set to start Sept. 26.

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UCLA adds receiver Isaiah Newcombe to 2021 class

UCLA received its ninth commit of its 2021 recruiting class Saturday night.

Three-star wide receiver Isaiah Newcombe, from Arizona, announced his commitment to the Bruins’ program via Twitter. He is UCLA’s fourth commitment in the last eight days.

Man!! Words can’t describe how excited I am right now!!🤩@CoachNewcombe @MsRachelN @UCLAFootball @GeoffreyLeins @CoachJimmieD @EthanYoungFB @CasteelFootball pic.twitter.com/rjL3pVo82z

— Isaiah Newcombe (@IsaiahNewcombe) June 14, 2020

“I would like to thank my family, friends, and coaches for supporting me throughout this whole process,” Newcombe tweeted. “I would also like to thank my dad for everything. You’ve helped in so many ways, you’ve pushed me to be the best. I would also like to thank all my teachers for helping and guiding me. After weeks of talking and praying over this, I’m excited to announce my commitment to the University of California, Los Angeles.”

Newcombe, 6-1, 185, is the third receiver committed to the Bruins’ 2021 class, joining Ezavier Staples and DJ Justice. According to 247Sports.com, Newcombe is not nationally ranked but the site lists him as the No. 10 prospect out of the state of Arizona.

With his addition, UCLA’s class falls to No. 5 in the Pac-12 and No. 58 nationally after rising to No. 4 in the conference and No. 54 earlier in the week with Deshun Murrell’s commitment.

The Arizona native chose UCLA over offers from Washington, Utah, Boise State and Fresno State.

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4-star RB Brandon Campbell commits to USC

USC’s 2021 recruiting class picked up a big addition Saturday night.

Running back Brandon Campbell committed to the Trojans, making him the fifth member of USC’s upcoming recruiting class. A four-star prospect according to 247Sports.com, the Lamar Consolidated (Tex.) back made the announcement via his Twitter account.

Campbell picked USC over Penn State, LSU, Texas and Oklahoma, among others. He fills a big need for the Trojans, who did not receive a running back commit in their small 2020 class.

He is the fourth four-star recruit to commit to USC for the 2021 cycle. The Trojans only added two such prospects for 2020.

USC’s 2021 class is currently ranked 13th nationally and second in the Pac-12, according to 247Sports.com.

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Onyenwere scores 31 as UCLA women outlast Washington in OT

LOS ANGELES — For the second straight week, the UCLA women’s basketball team finished a game exhausted after playing more than a 40-minute regulation game.

But unlike last week, the Bruins walked away with the win.

Junior forward Michaela Onyenwere scored a career-high 31 points and helped the 10th-ranked Bruins erase a 15-point first-half deficit on their way to an 85-80 victory over Washington on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.

Natalie Chou added 18 points, just one short of her career-high, off the bench for the Bruins (17-1 overall, 6-1 Pac-12), who used an 8-1 run to seize control in overtime and got back on track after losing their first game of the season to USC last week. UCLA was the only unbeaten team in the country before its double-OT loss to the Trojans.

Friday’s game was tied 70-all after regulation and the Bruins sprinted to a 78-71 lead in the extra period when Charisma Obsborne sandwiched a pair of baskets around one from Chantel Horvat and one from Onyenwere. Washington got within 78-75 on a Quay Miller layup with 57 seconds left, but the game became a free-throw shooting contest from there and UCLA was able to maintain a two-possession lead the rest of the way to close it out.

“I’m exhausted, I need a nap,” UCLA head coach Cori Close said following the game. “We needed every last person and every ounce of energy in that building today.”

Onyenwere, who missed the loss to USC because of a sprained ankle, shot 13 for 26 from the field and 5 for 7 from the free-throw line. Onyenwere and Chou were held to six points each in the first half before combining for 37 of the Bruins’ 60 points the rest of the night.

“It was pretty rough to see my team go down and knowing I couldn’t do anything about it. I knew we would bounce back because we’re a bunch of fighters,” Onyenwere said of watching the loss to USC from the bench with a boot on her ankle. “I knew we would respond regardless if I was in or not. I was really happy to be back on the court with my teammates.”

Chou came up big down the stretch. She made a 3-pointer with 44 seconds left from the baseline to give UCLA a 69-68 lead and added a steal with 11 seconds remaining. Onyenwere made one of two free-throw attempts for a 70-68 lead, but Melgoza, fouled with four seconds left, made both free throws, tying the score and forcing overtime.

“Natalie Chou is the player of the game,” Close said. “Of course, what gets a lot of the attention is the clutch (3-pointers). She was the only one would could hit a 3 today, but for me, I’m so proud of her talk and how she’s grown as a defender and how she’s been a selfless teammate this entire time, even when she wished she had a different role. That takes tremendous courage, selflessness and character.”

Chou was the only Bruin to make a 3-point shot, and UCLA had 28 attempts. Chou was 4 for 9 from behind the arc.

“My teammates have been so encouraging throughout the whole season throughout my (highs) and dips,” Chou said. “My teammates have given me so much confidence and it means the world to me. They always tell me to keep shooting.”

Amber Melgoza had 14 points and Missy Peterson added 13 for Washington (10-8, 2-5), which played well but squandered its 15-point, second-quarter lead.

To start the third quarter, Onyenwere made a point to be aggressive getting back in the lane and finding her shots there. She got UCLA off to a good start with a three-point play that seemed to energize the Bruins, pulling them within 37-30.

Onyenwere put UCLA ahead at 49-47 near the end of the third quarter. She scored off a nice bounce pass from Japreece Dean, who drove from the perimeter to the baseline then fed the trailing Onyenwere in the middle of the key. Onyenwere made it 51-47 with one second left in the third when she got a rebound off her own miss and scored on a putback to cap an 8-0 UCLA run.

The Bruins made 12 of 22 shots and were a much-improved 54.5 percent from the field in that span.

“Before Coach Cori and the staff came in (at halftime), we were just talking and nobody seemed frazzled or panicked,” Onyenewere said. “Everybody was poised and just saying, ‘It’s okay. Shots will fall. But defense has to be our anchor.’ … It was (more) like, we’re not doing anything we need to do on defense.”

UCLA missed 17 of 22 shots (22.7 percent) and trailed 22-11 after the first quarter, looking rusty after a week off. The Huskies went on an 8-0 run at the end of the first and built an 11-point lead.

Near the end of the first quarter, Close called a timeout and immediately afterward shrugged her shoulders.

“I think part of it is our refocusing when we don’t hit immediate shots,” Close said. “We missed a couple layups and then we let the air get taken out of us. … We always tell our team, ‘You’re never going to focus completely for 40 minutes.’ The key is to be aware when you’ve lost your focus and learn how to refocus the quickest.”

Dean (14 points) struggled from the field, shooting 1 for 8 in the first half, and missing all five of her 3-point attempts. UCLA was 2 for 17 from behind the arc in the first half.

Washington led 35-25 at halftime and often had UCLA frazzled with its zone and pressure, but it couldn’t do much about Onyenwere. No one knew if Onyenwere would play – though she said she figured she would be ready to go a couple of days ago – but Huskies coach Jody Wynn said they prepared all week as if she would play.

“We turned the ball over too much and allowed too many second-chance opportunities. To me, that’s the story of the game,” said Wynn, who saw her team commit 24 turnovers. “… At the end of the day, Onyenwere was just too much for us. She just jumped over us, got offensive rebounds or putbacks. I thought we did a great job on their guards. I thought we rattled them in the halfcourt and played well under pressure, all except the second half and third quarter, especially. We made some careless errors. Credit their defense.”

After winning their first 16 games and setting a program record for victories to start a season, the Bruins have shown there’s plenty of room for improvement.

UCLA concludes this week’s homestand against Washington State (9-10, 2-5) on Sunday at noon at Pauley Pavilion.

News services contributed to this story.

We went to overtime and came out on top! 85-80 victory over Washington to move to 17-1.

Check out the highlights from tonight’s win!#GoBruins | #Pac12WBB pic.twitter.com/Ap3XYYBZVo

— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) January 25, 2020

Here’s the long ball from @NatalieChou1!

💻https://t.co/YWqZMLz6zg
🔊https://t.co/FORzK0ZVaQ
🏀#GoBruins | #Pac12WBB pic.twitter.com/gwdSPnwpXC

— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) January 25, 2020

END 3Q – UCLA 51, WASH 7

Here’s the slick feed from @japreece24 to @monyenwere that gave the Bruins the lead. Michaela added another bucket before time expired and UCLA leads by four!

💻https://t.co/YWqZMLz6zg
🔊https://t.co/FORzK0ZVaQ
🏀#GoBruins | #Pac12WBB pic.twitter.com/hIGJSLvg9E

— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) January 25, 2020

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Dabo Dynasty: Clemson can join elite company with win vs LSU

NEW ORLEANS — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has this drill down.

The Sunday before the College Football Playoff championship game a news conference is held with the head coaches. They compliment each other’s team and talk about focus and preparation. After, they shake hands and pose for photographs with the trophy that goes to the winner.

This was Swinney’s third time doing the dance, always as the team trying to derail a dynasty. Now his Tigers are on the cusp of joining exclusive in college football history.

No. 3 Clemson (14-0) will try to become the fourth team since The Associated Press began crowning college football national champions in 1936 to win three titles in four seasons when it faces No. 1 LSU (14-0) on Monday night at the Superdome.

“They know,” Swinney said of his players. “They’re very well aware of what they’ve been able to achieve. And listen, regardless of what happens in the game tomorrow night, it’s really been a historic run. To win two out of the last three national championships is amazing.”

To win the first two, Clemson upset Alabama twice in the championship game. The Tigers also lost twice to Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide in the playoff, including in the 2015 final.

In those previous Sunday-before-the-final news conferences, it was often Swinney — who grew up in Alabama and played on the Tide’s 1992 title team — being asked to put Saban’s unprecedented tenure in Tuscaloosa into perspective.

Fast forward to Sunday and it’s Clemson that has put itself in position to match one of Alabama’s greatest accomplishments. The Crimson Tide was the last team to win three championships in four seasons, winning BCS titles in 2009, ‘11 and ’12. The Tide has won five championships in 13 seasons under Saban.

Nebraska, under coach Tom Osborne, won national titles in 1994-95 and then shared the championship in 1997 with Michigan after being voted No. 1 in the final coaches poll.

Notre Dame won three in four seasons in 1946-47 and ’49, being crowned the champs by the AP each time.

A case cab be made that what Clemson is trying to do would top them all.

The playoff makes teams go through two quality opponents to earn a championship. The Tigers were the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0 last year and will have to do it again to repeat, beating two undefeated opponents in Ohio State and LSU along the way.

A victory Monday night in front of what will unquestionably be a partisan crowd in LSU’s backyard will make Clemson the seventh major college program since 1950 to win at least 30 straight games.

The last team to win back-to-back national titles with a perfect record was Nebraska in the mid-90s. Those Cornhuskers played a total of 25 games.

Swinney has often complained this season that his team hasn’t received the respect it deserved while running roughshod through the Atlantic Coast Conference. Clemson was the first AP preseason No. 1 to end the season No. 3 despite not losing a game since it happened to Alabama in 1966.

Swinney turned perceived slights into fuel for his team. Clemson is a verified college football superpower, but the Tigers remain upstarts, still with something to prove in their minds.

“Ever since I’ve been at Clemson that’s how it’s been,” All-America linebacker Isaiah Simmons said. “We always get the, ‘We don’t play anybody,’ this and that.

“We’re like the red-headed stepchild in other groups.”

So Clemson is embracing that narrative entering this championship game as underdogs again. LSU is about a six-point favorite behind Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and a record-breaking offense.

The senior who transferred from Ohio State in 2018 is on pace to break the FBS record for completion percentage at 77.6. He has thrown for 5,208 yards and 55 touchdowns. Burrow can become the first Heisman winner to win the national title since Alabama’s Derrick Henry helped the Tide beat Clemson in the 2015 title game, and the first Heisman winning quarterback to win it all since Florida State’s Jameis Winstion in 2013.

Burrow is the odds-on favorite to be the first player selected in the next NFL draft. The quarterback on the other side, Trevor Lawrence, is already the front-runner to be No. 1 overall in 2021.

The sophomore has yet to play in a losing game in college and Clemson is 25-0 when he starts.

“A winner, very quick release, very well-coached, outstanding feet, knows where to go with the ball, can run,” Orgeron said, rattling off what makes Lawrence so good.

No matter what happens Monday night, Clemson will begin next season as one of the favorites to win the national title. The 50-year-old Swinney also just signed the highest-rated recruiting class he has ever had in 10 seasons at Clemson.

This impressive run is far from over. But first things first.

“I think when you focus on that, you’re focusing on the magnitude of the moment and you lose the joy of the moment,” Swinney said. “That’s all we try to focus on is just being great where our feet are and just have some fun doing what we do to get ready.”

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Whicker: Clemson demonstrates that it’s tough to knock out the champ

  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence holds up the trophy after Clemson’s 29-23 win over Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson safety Nolan Turner (24) intercepts an Ohio State pass during the final minute of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

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  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and quarterback Trevor Lawrence celebrate after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson running back Travis Etienne runs for a touchdown against Ohio State during the second half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson safety Nolan Turner (24) celebrates after his interception against Ohio State during the final minute of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins carries for a touchdown during the first half of the team’s Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game playoff semifinal against Clemson on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Clemson running back Travis Etienne, left, runs for a touchdown past Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson safety Nolan Turner (24) celebrates after his interception against Ohio State in the final minute of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields carries the ball during the first half against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence runs for a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins carries for a touchdown during the first half of the team’s Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game playoff semifinal against Clemson on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Clemson running back Travis Etienne, left, runs for a touchdown past Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence holds the trophy after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates with quarterback Trevor Lawrence after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney smiles while holding the trophy after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence runs for a touchdown against Ohio State during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Clemson safety Nolan Turner (24) intercepts an Ohio State pass during the final minute of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields throws a pass against Clemson during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson safety Nolan Turner (24) celebrates after his interception against Ohio State in the final minute of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields carries the ball during the first half against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins carries for a touchdown during the first half of the team’s Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game playoff semifinal against Clemson on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Clemson fans celebrate after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 during the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

  • Clemson running back Travis Etienne, left, runs for a touchdown past Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney celebrates after Clemson defeated Ohio State 29-23 in the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal Saturday, Dec. 28, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — Somehow we forgot the team that has forgotten how to lose.

Somehow we forgot, in basically a month’s time, that Trevor Lawrence was the heavy preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, and that Clemson had won two of the previous three College Football Playoff championships, and that regardless of the Ohio State light show and the LSU passing jamboree, there was a big orange speed bump waiting for anyone who wanted to get to New Orleans.

The intelligentsia tuned out the Tigers on Sept. 28, when they needed overtime to beat North Carolina on the road, but still won. Since the rest of Clemson’s ACC was in need of FEMA assistance, the Tigers briefly dipped out of the magic Top Four in the rankings, and had to keep winning to make this playoff.

The oddsmakers knew, because they favored Clemson over Ohio State from the beginning of this semifinal, but hardly anyone else did. Lawrence did not even make the Heisman cut, never got to see New York. Maybe next year.

But the Tigers remembered. They trailed the Buckeyes 23-22 when they got the ball on their own six yard line, with two time outs and 3:07 left. Lawrence, with the shaggy hair and the porcelain features, had shocked Ohio State with his running, even streaking 67 yards near the end of the first half for the touchdown that drew Clemson to within 16-14.

“I put two things on the call sheet before the game,” said Dabo Swinney, the Tigers coach. “Quarterback run and running back pass.”

This time Lawrence, now undefeated as a sophomore, leaned on his arm. He took Clemson to the end zone in four breathtaking plays, including a 38-yarder to Amari Rodgers. Then he faked that quarterback draw that had so bewitched Ohio State, drew in the pass rush, and flipped the ball to Travis Etienne, who slashed his way 34 yards into the end zone.

“I thought we scored too quick,” Swinney said. “I kinda wished Travis had fallen down on the one-yard-line.”

Ohio State now had the two time outs and 1:48 to play with. Justin Fields, the transfer from Georgia who basically grew up down the road from Lawrence, hit some rhythmic throws and got the Buckeyes into position.

But when receiver Chris Olave thought he saw Fields scrambling, he cut outside and then slipped. Fields was planning to hit him over the middle as he had done on a go-ahead touchdown. This time, nobody was there but Tigers’ safety Nolan Turner, whose late father Kevin played with Swinney at Alabama. Turner made the interception, and Clemson won its 29th consecutive game. It will play LSU for the championship in the Superdome on Jan. 13.

“It was the look we wanted,” Fields said. “It was just a miscommunication between me and Chris. It’s the type of thing that happens.”

Ryan Day, who lost his first game as the Buckeyes’ coach, had questions about other happenings.

Cornerback Shaun Wade was thrown out of the game for targeting Lawrence on a perfectly timed sack, slamming his helmet against the quarterback’s head. At that point Clemson was down 16-0. “We couldn’t have played any worse,” Swinney said. But the Tigers cut it to 16-14 at the half.

“We’ve got to look at the film and see what happened on some of those plays,” Day said. “One or two plays can change a game like this and it didn’t seem like we got any of those plays.

“I’m proud and I’m sad, and I’m certainly angry. There’s a lot of emotion in our locker room, a lot of helmets getting thrown against the wall. I’m too close to it, too emotional, but I know there were some calls that were overturned. There has to be indisputable evidence on those plays. They were major plays in this game that didn’t go our way.”

Clemson’s Justyn Ross appeared to fumble after he made a catch in the third quarter, and Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller sprinted to the end zone for an apparent go-ahead score. After review, the pass was judged incomplete. Running back J.K. Dobbins also appeared to score until the Adjustment Bureau came in, and Dobbins was ruled to be down at the one yard line.

The Buckeyes could have lapped the Tigers early, but Dobbins dropped a screen pass that had ‘touchdown’ labeled on it, and Clemson’s defensive backs made major stops on third down. OSU kicked three field goals in the first half.

“We took their best shot,” Swinney told the Tigers at halftime.

But there was also Ohio State’s roughing the punter penalty that gave the Tigers a second breath and a shot at Etienne’s touchdown for a 21-16 lead. There was Dobbins running wild in the first half before he hurt his ankle, bursting for a 68-yard touchdown and clicking off another 64-yard run that would have been another score if Clemson’s Tanner Muse hadn’t got him by the shoelaces on the Clemson eight-yard-line, eventually forcing a field goal.

Everyone wanted to know what might happen when these two unchallenged teams finally ran into resistance. It wasn’t terribly pretty. Ohio State scored a season low. Receivers on both sides struggled to get open. Tacklers couldn’t find the best angles to deal with unseen speed.

It all came down to Lawrence, who was down and groggy after getting the head-butt from Wade.

“It was a stinger,” Lawrence said. “It scared me a little bit. I couldn’t feel my arms there. I just laid there for a second. Then I got mad and popped up.”

Lawrence ran for 107 yards in 16 tries. Etienne, the All-American running back, caught three for 98. The Buckeyes did a nice job removing Etienne at first, but they didn’t reckon with Lawrence’s long-legged acceleration.

“They were playing one safety,” Swinney said. “They were always going to outnumber us in the box. And I’m not kidding, everybody that starts on their defense is going to be drafted, and some of the reserves, too.

“So we had to push it a little bit, had to figure out some other things to do. And this guy (Lawrence), he can move, now.”

Lawrence was the third leading rusher for Clemson in the regular season with 507 yards.

“We’d had that play in our pocket for a while,” Lawrence said, referring to his Lamar Jackson impression. “We hadn’t used for a few weeks. But it was wide open, and the guys did a good job giving me some lanes. I’ve been trying to improve my running in the off-season, getting more physical. I think it can help us win.”

Lawrence has now gone seven games without throwing a pick. His yards-per-attempt and his completion percentage are better than in 2018. He and everyone else were left gasping in Joe Burrow’s Heisman smoke, and Swinney said Clemson “deserves to be the underdog” in the coming battle of Tigers.

He didn’t seem to mind.

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College Football Bowl Game live updates: Who will play in the 2020 Rose Bowl?

  • Oregon running back CJ Verdell holds the MVP trophy after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, right, celebrates with offensive lineman Shane Lemieux (68) after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in and NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

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  • Utah coach Kyle Whittingham walks the sideline during a timeout in the first half of the team’s Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game against Oregon in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) is sacked by Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. Oregon won 37-15. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon players douse coach Mario Cristobal near the end of the team’s 37-15 win over Utah in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (10) hands off to running back CJ Verdell (7) during the second half against Utah in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. Oregon won 37-15. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon players celebrate after defeating Utah 37-15 in the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon running back CJ Verdell (7) and teammates celebrate after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and teammate La’Mar Winston Jr. (32) celebrate after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon coach Mario Cristobal holds up the trophy after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon cornerback Haki Woods Jr. (14) kisses the trophy after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert throws a pass against Utah during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon running back CJ Verdell (7) rushes for a touchdown past Utah defensive back Javelin Guidry (28) during the second half of an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. Oregon won 37-15. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert walks off the field after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship, in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon safety Brady Breeze, right, intercepts a pass intended for Utah wide receiver Demari Simpkins (3) as Oregon cornerback Mykael Wright (2) defends during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Utah running back Zack Moss (2) breaks a tackle for a touchdown run against Oregon during the second half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon safety Jevon Holland (8) breaks up a pass for Utah wide receiver Jaylen Dixon (25) during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Oregon wide receiver Jaylon Redd (30) is pushed out of bounds by Utah defensive back Josh Nurse (14) short of the goal line during the first half of the Pac-12 Conference championship NCAA college football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Clemson players hold the trophy following the second half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Virginia in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Clemson won 62-17. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

  • Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, left, celebrates following the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game against Virginia in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Clemson won 62-17. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

  • LSU head coach Ed Orgeron leaves the field after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and teammate La’Mar Winston Jr. (32) celebrate after Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in an NCAA college football game for the Pac-12 Conference championship in Santa Clara, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

  • Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell (8) and defensive end Justin Foster (35) tackle Virginia running back Billy Kemp IV (80) during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

  • Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, center, celebrates following the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Clemson won 62-17. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

  • Clemson running back Travis Etienne (9) escapes the tackle attempt by Virginia cornerback Heskin Smith (23) and Virginia linebacker Jordan Mack (4) during the first half of the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Etienne scored a touchdown on the play. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

  • Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (81) makes a catch as Oklahoma cornerback Jaden Davis (4) and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell (32) defend during an NCAA college football game for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

  • Oklahoma wide receiver Nick Basquine (83) celebrates a touchdown reception over Baylor safety JT Woods (22) during the second half of an NCAA college football game for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma won 30-23 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Oklahoma defensive lineman Neville Gallimore (90) plants a University of Oklahoma flag after the Sooners 30-23 overtime win over Baylor in an NCAA college football game for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

  • Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) smiles after putting on his conference championship hat after Oklahoma’s 30-23 overtime victory over Baylor in an NCAA college football game for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Baylor wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (81) celebrates with offensive linemen Sam Tecklenburg, left, and Xavier Newman, lifting Thornton, during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (2) runs upfield with a reception during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Baylor for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks (26) celebrates with offensive lineman Creed Humphrey (56) after rushing for a touchdown against Baylor during the first half of an NCAA college football game for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)

  • Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill holds the trophy following the team’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill kisses the trophy following the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. Ohio State won 34-21. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

  • Ohio State coach Ryan Day, right, celebrates with defensive tackle wide receiver Binjimen Victor (9) following the team’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. AP Photo/AJ Mast)

  • Ohio State head coach Ryan Day holds the trophy following the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. Ohio State won 34-21. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

  • Ohio State players celebrate the team’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

  • LSU coach Ed Orgeron celebrates on stage after the team’s win over Georgia in an NCAA college football game for the Southeastern Conference championship on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

  • Oklahoma celebrates an overtime touchdown during the Big 12 Championship game against Baylor Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma won 30-23 in overtime. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

  • Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, right, looks for a receiver during the second half of the team’s Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

  • Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (23) runs during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game as Ohio State’s Cameron Brown (26) watches Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave (17) is tackled by Wisconsin safety Reggie Pearson (2) as linebacker Zack Baun (56) watches during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

  • LSU head coach Ed Orgeron leaves the field after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • LSU players hold the SEC Championship trophy after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • LSU head coach Ed Orgeron celebrates after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • LSU coach Ed Orgeron hands a ball to quarterback Joe Burrow after LSU defeated Georgia in an NCAA college football game for Southeastern Conference championship Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

  • LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • LSU players hold the SEC Championship trophy after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • LSU defensive lineman Breiden Fehoko (91) ties up Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) intercepts the ball from Georgia wide receiver George Pickens (1) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (24) celebrates with teammates his interception against Georgia during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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Until the College Football Playoff Committee makes an official announce Sunday morning, who will play in what bowl remains speculation.

Oregon’s victory over Utah, knocked the Utes out of the mix for a playoff bid and put the Ducks in position to play in the 2020 Rose Bowl in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.

Penn State and Wisconsin, who lost to Ohio State Saturday night, are potential opponents for the Ducks. Oregon’s last appearance in the Rose Bowl Game was 2014 in a semifinal victory over Florida State. The No. 2-ranked Ducks lost in the National Championship Game against No. 4 Ohio State 42-20.

Conference championships have been decided and coaches have already started moving around to take over different programs. Below is the list of bowl games including College Football Playoffs:

The New Year’s Six Bowl Games (Games announced Sunday at 9 p.m. PST):

Peach Bowl (CFB semifinal) — No. 1 ?? vs. No. 4 ??.

Fiesta Bowl (CFB semifinal) — No. 2 ?? vs. No. 3 ??.

Rose Bowl — No. 13 Oregon vs. ??

Sugar Bowl — .?

Orange Bowl — ?

Cotton Bowl — ?

Start making your postseason plans! The slate is set for the 2019-20 New Year’s Six and Playoff Semifinals.

It all leads to #2020Nola for the #CFBPlayoff #NationalChampionship on January 13!

Who’s in? 🏈🏆pic.twitter.com/gPS6yqDzvB

— College Football Playoff (@CFBPlayoff) May 23, 2019

 

Other bowl games:

Dec. 20

Brahamas Bowl

Frisco Bowl

Dec. 21

Celebration Bowl

New Mexico Bowl

Cure Bowl

Boca Raton Bowl

Camellia Bowl

Las Vegas Bowl

New Orleans Bowl

Dec. 23

Gasparilla Bowl

Dec. 24

Hawai’i Bowl

Dec. 26

Independence Bowl

Quick Lane Bowl

Dec. 27

Military Bowl

Pinstripe Bowl

Texas Bowl

Holiday Bowl

Cheez-It Bowl

Dec. 28

Camping World Bowl

Cotton Bowl Classic

Fiesta Bowl (semifinal)

Peach Bowl (semifinal)

Dec. 30

First Responder Bowl

Music City Bowl

Redbox Bowl

Orange Bowl

Dec. 31

Belk Bowl

Sun Bowl

Liberty Bowl

Arizona Bowl

Alamo Bowl

Jan. 1, 2020

Citrus Bowl

Outback Bowl

Rose Bowl

Sugar Bowl

Jan. 2

Birmingham Bowl

Gator Bowl

Jan. 3

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Jan. 4

Armed Forces Bowl

Jan. 6

LendingTree Bowl

Jan. 13

College Football Playoff National Championship Game

Coaches on the move:

While bowl eligible teams wait to hear about their future Sunday morning, other college programs have taken the first step in potentially rebuilding for their future.

Former USC and Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin has left FAU to become the head coach at Ole Miss. Kiffin finished his third year with the Owls, leading the program to a 49-6 victory over UAB in the Conference USA Championship game.

Florida State is expected to announce Memphis coach Mike Norvell as its next coach. Norvell led the No. 17 Tigers to a 29-24 win over No. 20 Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference title game.

Conference Champions:

Pac 12 Championship: No. 13 Oregon

Big 12 Championship: No. 6 Oklahoma

MAC Championship: Miami (Ohio)

Sun Belt Championship: No. 21 Appalachian State

Conference USA Championship: Florida Atlantic

American Championship: No. 17 Memphis

Mountain West Championship: No. 19 Boise State

SEC Championship:  No. 2 LSU

SWAC Championship: Southern at Alcorn State

ACC Championship: No. 3 Clemson

Big Ten Championship:  No. 1 Ohio State

A Twitter List by JHWreporter

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UCLA football’s underclassmen step up and show depth in season finale

PASADENA — In a night most often reserved for the celebration of seniors, a handful of UCLA underclassmen stepped up during Saturday’s season finale when the team needed them most — proving the Bruins’ depth is well prepared to take over for its departing seniors.

“That group took advantage of the opportunities that they had, and they’re excited to come back when we get a chance to get to spring ball and coach these guys up,” UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. “I know that through the experience that they’ve had and how they really progressed during the season, that I’m excited about what the future is.”

With three of the Bruins’ six starting seniors either sitting out the game with a previous injury, or suffering one during Saturday’s 28-18 loss to Cal, the Bruins’ underclassmen stepped up on both sides of the ball.

Prior to kickoff, senior inside linebacker Krys Barnes was dressed in full pads as he walked through a tunnel of cheering teammates toward his family during the team’s pregame senior celebration. His right ankle was taped, while his left leg sported a brace. Barnes did not play in the game, instead finding his place along the sideline and on the outside of huddles.

In his place was sophomore Bo Calvert, who made his season debut after missing the rest of the season due to serving an academic suspension. Because of the suspension, Calvert will not be given the option to redshirt the season.

However, he made his one-game season count as he earned the starting position in Barnes’ place and finished with 7 tackles.

“It was tough not having Krys out there, but he was in my ear the whole game, and I felt like I was really playing with him even though we weren’t out on the field together,” Calvert said. “I was able to make some plays for him and it felt good.”

Another underclassman filling in for an injured senior was redshirt sophomore Sam Marrazzo at center for Boss Tagaloa. Tagaloa left the game with less than a minute left in the first quarter with an injury. He was seen walking with a slight limp as he left the field into the players’ tunnel before halftime. He did not return to the game as Marrazzo played the remainder of the game.

As UCLA lost its lead at the end of the first quarter, it was the underclassmen that continued to play through the game without a sign of giving up. Some played through injury, as others took any small window of opportunity to leave an impact and help the team.

Junior defensive back Quinten Lake made his return after missing the past eight games due to a wrist injury. He ended Saturday’s game with four tackles while playing with a cast.

While senior running back Joshua Kelley had a historic night, redshirt junior running back Demetric Felton showed what he’ll bring in Kelley’s spot as he finished the night with 65 total yards.

Sophomore wide receiver Delon Hurt also made his name known, celebrating his first career reception on a two-point conversion to get UCLA within three points of Cal at 21-18 with about two-and-a-half minutes left in the third quarter.

It’s this sense of grit that Calvert believes is the biggest impact this year’s senior class has left on the younger Bruins.

“The seniors have taught us all throughout this year to just be able to put your head down and work,” he said. “To not let the things around you distract you from what’s your ultimate goal and to keep moving forward. Those guys have faced a lot of adversity in their time here, but they were able to push forward and that’s really inspiring and makes you want to work harder.”

Seniors, like Kelley, believe it’s what will help propel next year’s team to successful heights.

“I have no doubt in my mind that they’re going to be [a contender in the conference],” Kelley said. “I know so. UCLA is going to be great these next two years, and I just know it without a doubt.”

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USC quotable: Trojans break down big win over Cal

Here are some highlights from USC’s post-game press conferences following its 41-17 win over Cal:

Head coach Clay Helton

Opening statement:

“Good win for our football team. Another good road, Pac-12 win. And I’m really proud of the kids. I thought they had a tremendous week of preparation. I thought they brought the right energy and the right attitude today. I thought they really made a statement for their team and what they’re trying to attempt to do down the stretch here. There were some big playmakers all over the place. We had the game ball in there, I really couldn’t give it to one guy. This was really a team a win and there were big plays made by a lot of people. Defensively, I was nervous coming into the game. I thought Cal had done a wonderful job against Washington State the week before. And I thought defensively they really set the tone, especially that third quarter coming out and doing what they did. Offensively, couldn’t be more proud of how we operated as an offense. Four touchdown passes, I think that defense had only given up nine total for the entire year. That’s a really, really good defense and I’m proud of our kids for how they operated.”

On Kedon Slovis’ third 400-yard performance in four games:

“My favorite number is that zero; zero interceptions. That’s a really good defense and I think Justin Wilcox is one of the better defensive coaches in the country. I’ll never forget being here and Sam Darnold having one of his hardest days because of how they mixed up coverages, pressures and things like that. One, credit the offensive line. They did come after us and they held up. And credit the wideouts. They did an unbelievable job when they got their one-on-one situations making big plays for the kid. And he protected the football. When you have four touchdowns and zero interceptions, that’s a hell of a day.”

On the difference in the game:

“I thought the separation was the drive right before half. We talked about that, how important ending the half and beginning the half was going to be. It was the last thing we talked about in our team meeting because we lost that last year, if you remember. We had a turnover that happened right before halftime and then we came out flat in the third quarter. That cost us a loss against this team last year. We discussed it as a team and man, the kids took it to heart. To go down, get that two-minute drive for a touchdown, then come right out in the second half and double up with another touchdown, that was the separation we needed.”

On electing to defer after winning the coin toss:

“I challenged our kickoff coverage as well as our defense, that I wanted them to be able to set the tone tonight. We said it in our team meeting, that if we had the opportunity to win the toss, we were gonna defer and put that strike force out right off the bat and get back on the horse, go cover it and get it down. And the defense, I wanted them to set the tone. I was really proud after that first drive. There was no panic or anything amongst anybody that was there. We got two penalties on that drive that allowed them to get to the plus side of the field. Everybody took a deep breath and said, ‘Okay, this is what’s happened. Let’s go to the next drive.’ From that point on, I thought defensively they had a heck of a night.”

If he second-guessed that decision after Cal scored on the opening drive of the game:

“No. Sometimes you have to be able to show confidence in the guys that are around you and let them know that, ‘Hey, I’m confident in you.’ And it may not have paid off for the first drive, but it paid off for the game. When a coach has confidence in the men that are around him, they’ll feed off of it. And that was what I wanted to happen. I believe in these kids. They keep on showing up each and every week and putting their best foot forward. They got a chance to win five out of the last six games next week and really put an exclamation point on the season.”

QB Kedon Slovis

On the game:

“I thought the team played really well. Obviously a few drives wish we had of scored but overall I thought we had a pretty good night.”

When he felt like he was on his game:

“I don’t know I really thought like that, but in the second half after the second touchdown, we kinda had it rolling offensively, I thought.”

If Cal’s defense was as good as expected:

“That’s one of the things, the beauty of this offense, is no matter who we play, we’re an execution-based offense. So if we execute, if we do our job, we’re gonna score. And that’s what happened tonight.”

If his confidence grows playing with the receivers he plays with:

“Yeah, definitely. I remember in high school I wouldn’t be able to make some of the throws because I knew my guys couldn’t make it. It wasn’t their fault; they’re not Michael Pittman or some of these guys. It’s definitely getting used to what they can do and their skillset.”

On what he’s learned and gotten better at lately:

“Going through the reads and being more consistent. And that comes with reps. Obviously, the last week, made a few ugly mistakes and this week made a few mistakes too that obviously didn’t cost us, luckily.”

On Drake London:

“He’s been awesome. I think confidence-wise you see him getting more excited. He tried to hurdle someone so definitely more confident than he was a few weeks ago.”

On three 400-yard games in last four weeks:

“I think it just shows what our offense is capable of. Obviously I think I can play better even after a game like this and especially after the other three games. I think it’s just a testament to what this offense can be in the future.”

Where he wants to grow before season is over:

“Just eliminating those bad decisions, really. There’s one throw, the one to [Tyler Vaughns] that probably should have been picked off, I can’t make that throw. That’s a bad decision. So just eliminating those. We obviously got better at it throughout the year but just making that a staple.”

WR Michael Pittman Jr.

If anything surprises him about Slovis anymore:

“No, he’s showed up and he’s been the same guy week in and week out and I think that he’s getting better and he’s showing us that he’s an elite college quarterback.”

On breaking through 1,000 yards:

“That’s a big deal, I guess, so I’m just thankful that I had that opportunity.”

On how Drake London has played of late:

“I thought Drake has been big time. I actually talked to him after that Washington game when he didn’t make that tough catch and I kinda just challenged him. And he has came out and played great, especially for being so young. He still has a lot of time left here and I’m just looking for him to do great things.”

On his thoughts heading into his last game at the Coliseum next week:

“I haven’t really thought about it. It’s just happened so fast and I’m just so blessed to be part of this team and part of this brotherhood that I can’t see it ending. So I don’t really want to think about it yet.”

S Talanoa Hufanga

If the defense made any adjustments after Cal scored to start the game:

“We just had to focus on the run game, make sure we stop the run game, force them to throw. We just had to adjust. That’s the whole motto of it. We just got to relock in and that’s what we did when it came to the second series.”

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

On Slovis’ performance:

“Kedon’s a beast. He’s been balling all year. He’s a great quarterback. I think just each game he feels more comfortable and he’s getting the hang of it.”

If the team went in expecting to throw the deep ball or if it became a point of emphasis as the game progressed:

“I think it’s just something that developed as the game progressed. We didn’t know what we were going to see, what kind of coverage we were going to see. As the game went on, the coaches upstairs saw what they were doing and just started dialing up some shots.”

On why the deep ball was so effective:

“I think we have great guys on offense on our side of the ball. Really good receivers, a great quarterback, a line that gave protection and we just went and made plays.”

Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast

On the impact of the targeting call against Christian Rector:

“It was huge. We had some things within the game plan that we were going to utilize him on third down from a rush standpoint that was kinda dialed up for him. So it was disappointing to lose him that early. But we made some adjustments for who were going to put in there and the guys stepped up and played ball.”

On the pressure the defense put on Cal’s QBs:

“Yeah, it was good. We mixed it up. We called some coverage. We called some blitzes. The guys executed it well, certainly in timely situations. The guys were disruptive.”

On Caleb Tremblay:

“He’s a guy that really benefited from redshirting last year. He’s helped us more in pass rush situations than he has in the running game. He got tied up on a couple blocks in the running game and the ball got out on the perimeter. But he’s a guy that’s still learning.”

Offensive coordinator Graham Harrell

On Slovis:

“I thought he played pretty well. It helps to have some big monsters out there who can go get the ball. But I thought it was one of our more complete performances as an offense, at least for a full game. So I was happy with that. … When he plays well, he should always throw for 400 with those guys. You can’t replace experience. The more games you’re playing in any offense, the better you’re going to get. Obviously with the receivers we have and the offense we run, it’ll enable you to have the opportunity to put up a lot of points and the opportunity to put up big numbers.”

If it was part of the game plan to throw the ball deep:

“They were playing a coverage that I felt allowed us the opportunity to take some shots and the opportunity to hit some big ones. And turns out we did.”

WR Drake London

On his confidence:

“The game has slowed down tremendously.”

If he got frustrated early in the season:

“To be honest, I didn’t feel like I was in a lull at all. I was a true freshman, I was playing, I was going out there and blocking for my teammates. So that’s all I could ask for.”

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