The Clash of Allies: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs #5 Ohio State Buckeyes by Mike Scharf

After the Big Ten cancelled the 2020 football season in August, and then reversed that decision last month, Ohio State’s pursuit for another CFB Playoff trip starts this week as Nebraska comes into Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. 

The Buckeyes and Cornhuskers are meeting for the seventh time since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011. The Buckeyes have won seven of eight matchups including five straight. This Buckeye team is starting their season in October for the first time since 1939.

The Big Ten was the first power 5 conference to cancel its fall schedule, only for the decision to be backpedaled due to constant strategies within the conference along with an eight week schedule that features eight games with no off dates. The Buckeyes and Cornhuskers both voiced their opinions strongly on the desire to play so it’s only right these two face off in Ohio stadium this weekend.

Ohio State fell just short of a visit to the national championship game last season losing to Clemson 29-23 in the CFB semifinal, but this Buckeye squad led by Head Coach Ryan Day reloaded for another run at it this season. Day returns a Heisman Trophy Finalist at quarterback in Justin Fields, one of the best offensive lines in the country, along one of the most talented wide receiver groups in recent years, and a stout defense.

The Buckeyes will also have some new faces displaying their ability this weekend with Oklahoma transfer running back Trey Sermon and a talented freshman recruiting class led by the receiving core of Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Gee Scott.

Like Day, Nebraska coach Scott Frost also re-establishes some key members for his squad. Notably starting quarterback Adrian Martinez along with a returning offensive line. Martinez was in a fight for the starting job as redshirt freshman Luke McCaffrey, who offers a unique, similar skill set as a dual-threat quarterback for the Cornhuskers. So the Buckeyes defense needs to have their focus on both quarterbacks come game time as both could see snaps. The offensive front for the Cornhuskers is experienced as they get returning all five starters from last year including three seniors in tackle Brenden Jaimes, and guards Boe Wilson, Matt Farnoik. 

There’s no denying the notable talent gap between the two programs as the Buckeyes have won its last five games against the Cornhuskers in dominating fashion and is 7-1 all-time including a 48-7 matchup in Lincoln last year. Many are expecting Ohio State’s high-powered offense to blow the doors off Nebraska. Although it shouldn’t be eye opening if Nebraska makes some plays on the offensive side of the ball as Ohio State’s defense is playing its first game without seven starters who were all drafted into the NFL including two of the top three picks in Chase Young, and Jeff Okudah.

SCORE PREDICTION: 52-20

#MOTSAGRising Depth Chart Preview: The Specialists

For the last position group available, I will tackle the vaunted specialist group that is leaned upon during crunch time. Whether it is to flip the field position or to score field goals, either group can be crucial to the team’s overall success against opposing teams. Not only are they viable weapons in the kicking game, the Long Snapper position and the returners are also a part of this group.

First the kicker, Blake Haubeil is the leading leg that is on his fifth year with the program. He is as experienced as any, but there could be some room for improvement. He was nearly automatic making 23 of 28 field goals for a respectable 81%. He also has made all of his extra point attempts, making 122 total through two seasons. Total points so far? 258 is the current number, but that could grow into a larger one after this season due to the sheer explosiveness of this years offense.

The bottle flipping champion of the world Drue Chrisman will re-engage the team as their starting punter. Like he flips his bottles, he will flip the field with his leg to trap teams inside of their 10-yard line or deeper during games. A weapon like this is useful for a defensive-minded team like Ohio State that forces teams to take the entirety of the field to possibly score. The field position battle will be important and this aspect is in capable hands to turn the tide in tight games.

The back-ups for both of the previous positions would be Dominic DiMaccio and Jake Seibert at the #2 and #3 positions respectively. DiMaccio, a walk-on at Missouri is doing the same for this years team. He will compete with Siebert, a signee from the 2020 class for the top spot after Haubeil departs for the NFL. Either way, the talent is definitely there for the not-so-distant future.

The same could be said for the punter position. Behind Chrisman there Zach Hoover and a class of 2021 commit, Jesse Mirco from Australia. Same situation from the kicker position, the punters have good competition behind Chrisman and they too will duke it out the following off-season for the starting gig.

For the long snapper position, Roen McCullough continues the family tradition of long snappers. His brother Liam was the 2019 seasons long snapper and he will look to continue in the Scarlet and Gray. Behind McCullough, Bradley Robinson is right there.

Finally, the returners. Returners can be used to score and to flip the field–and Garrett Wilson and Demario McCall are the kick and the punt returners respectively. Sure, there can be other people behind them, but they have established themselves a season ago. Sure, both have botched or muffed a few, but that is the exciting part about special teams. You just never know where it’ll leave a mark.

I am hoping for a lot of fireworks, but I am hoping for special teams type of fireworks. The last three special teams touchdowns? The most recent was in 2014, where Jalin Marshall took it to the house against Indiana. There was also the time where Jordan Hall did the same thing against The Team Up North in 2010.

If Ohio State wants to succeed, they might want to get back to returning kicks and punts for scores, but it’ll come in time and this offense is potent enough to do without. BUT, I won’t be too upset if they start tearing it up from this aspect either. They have plenty of ammo and weapons to field two full squads of “starters” waiting in the wings, but until they are asked to step up, we will just have to hope that they wait and be patient as they bide their time.

And there you have it folks! All aspects of this years teams broken down by Chris and I–and I really hope that you all enjoyed it! Thank you for the love and support. As we look ahead, I personally cannot wait to do more content for the Buckeyes and my team is also itching to get back to the best part of the year.

#GoBucks

#BeatNebraska

#MOTSAGRising Depth Chart Preview: Linebackers

Today friends we will be talking Linebackers and boy oh boy–they are deep at experienced at these positions! The Buckeyes have Captain Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, and Baron Browning taking up starting roles at the Linebacker. I am positive that Borland will take the lead at the Mike and both Werner and Browning would each be on the outside.

Behind them will be another talented group of back-ups in Dallas Gant, Teradja Mitchell, and Justin Hilliard. Behind them talent is still there and Tommy Eichenberg, Melton Mitchell, K’Vaughan Pope, Cody Simon, Craig Young, Trayvon Wilburn, and Cade Kacherski will be there to learn their own respective positions.

As starters, the collection of Borland, Browning, and Werner are one of the most experienced groups in the nation when considering both, the total downs being played and the impact plays they have made. Borland taking up middle will place a capable player to lead and call the audibles and the plays. Coming off a severe injury, he did well, but as a healthy body–I think he will do better this season.

Browning was playing at the Mike, but he will find himself on the outside and I think he will wreak havoc. Think how amazing it was to have Darron Lee–and I think it’ll be a similar fit scheme-wise and he will impact games for the Buckeyes. Browning was one of those players that has been buried by ballers ahead of him and this year will potentially be his last year with the program. He pondered leaving after last season, but like all others–he has returned for one last run.

Lastly, Pete Werner is like a missile that can cover and rush the passer. A Swiss Army Knife, Werner will also be used to disarm potent offenses that they will face this season within the conference. I think he will blitz more often than normal and he will do well against slot receivers, tight ends, and even backs out of the backfield. He may do it all this season in what also should be his last year with the program.

The Buckeyes second team are all great talents too! Hilliard has been through a lot, with injuries taking him out repeatedly but last year he was healthy and he balled out! This is his last season and he will make an impact with whatever role he is assigned. Dallas Gant is another star that was buried by the depth and talent ahead of him, but this is his season to shine to gain some consideration for next season. A speedy, coverage guy who is willing to get his nose dirty–he will be vying for time in the middle. Finally, for the second outside spot, I think talented thumper Teradja Mitchell is a shoo-in for that one.

Think about who could surprise us all too. I would think Pope will be that guy to make huge splash plays when asked to. Eichenberg and Young will also be leaned on once the starters are spelled when games get out of hand. Talented freshmen Mitchell and Simon could also be used on special teams to get a handle while the upperclassmen work. As I stated before I began, the talent is immense and they have a lot of it.

On the recruiting trail, ILB Reid Carrico will join the team in the summer. In the summer of 2022, a trio of talented player Dasan McCullough, C.J. Hicks, and Gabe Powers are all committed to uphold the tradition of being stellar players at their respective positions. This should excite us all and I cannot wait to see who the 2021 and 2022 classes finish off with. For now lets enjoy the season.

#GoBucks

#MOTSAGRising Depth Chart Preview: The Slobs

In today’s installment its all about the Slobs. This years offensive attack will be co-dependent on the ability of the entire offensive line to win their match-ups in the trenches. This group one of the most talented in the nation and Justin Fields will be hoping to rev things up when the season is officially underway. 10 more days left until Nebraska at home. This unit has definitely will have a championship-caliber team that can control games entirely, but again–we shall see.

The offensive line will return Wyatt Davis, who opted out due to the uncertainty of the 2020 season even happening. As the lone Captain on the offensive line at Right Guard, he will lead by example with Center Josh Myers and Left Tackle Thayer Munford also returning for what many consider “their last ride” in the scarlet and gray.

Although the trio of Davis, Myers, and Munford is wonderful, they have two available spots up for grabs at the Left Guard and Right Tackle spots, but they do not have a shortage in talent to fill them. At Guard, the Buckeyes have Harry Miller, Enokk Vimahi, Gavin Cupp, and Ryan Jacoby. The first three are in a competition for the two deep, while the latter falls behind. Davis in the depth chart.

If I were a betting man, I’d give it to Miller by virtue of setting up Vimahi as the back-up. Not a slight, but I can see Myers doing his thing and then leaving for the draft, and Miller either slides in at Center or he dukes it out with Matthew Jones. Vimahi would then slide into the starting spot or battle it out with Cupp next season. Either way, the talent for this spot is there for the Buckeyes.

At Right Tackle, Nicholas Petit-Frere gets the nod with Big Thanos Dawand Jones right behind him. Big Thanos had flashes at Left Tackle, but with his athleticism and agility he’d fit on either side, but for the future Right Tackle is his spot for now. Jones would have the nod over Max Wray, who would fall behind him for third on the depth chart.

If you are keeping score the first team would look like this, from the left side of the line to the right: Munford, Miller, Myers, Davis, and then Petit-Frere. The second team in the same order would be: Johnson, Vimahi, M. Jones, Cupp, and then D. Jones. So basically two versions of the Monstars that will basically maul people, but I will try not to get too ahead of myself.

With the Buckeyes in general, attrition would be a factor in this position as we’ve seen it over the past few years. Yes, the Buckeyes are loaded, but sometimes players look elsewhere for consistent playing time. They are developed and ready to go, but they haven’t received their shot yet. Hopefully that is not the case, but we won’t know.

Ahead of the 2020 COVID season, the Buckeyes have started much later than anticipated or expected, but we all know they are ready to go. We have all seen the videos and it hasn’t changed my mind about what I personally think the season would look like, but again–I am containing myself and reserving judgement until 10 days from now.

There are also a few studs in the 2020 class still in the fold too. The trio of Donovan Jackson, Ben Christman, and Zen Michalski currently committed, more talent is on its way. They may close out with the trio, but big names are still out there despite being close to being out of the running. Until it becomes official you just never know in recruiting. Stay tuned until either National Signing Days and just enjoy it.

#GoBucks

#MOTSAGRising Depth Chart Preview: Wide Receivers

Alrighty folks–it’s Zone 6 time and I am on deck with the preview at the Wide Receiver position! This is by far my favorite position to cover and I am gushing over the fact that I get to do this. Not only does this room have a superior Coach in Brian Hartline, he has also amassed a ton of talented players that will make noise in this very moment or later down the road. Sure, there will be injuries and attrition, but being able to polish their skills over the course of their time with Coach Hartline–its only a matter of time until they are unleashed.

Wide Receivers: Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Mookie Cooper, Julian Fleming, Gee Scott Jr, Demario McCall, Ellijah Gardiner, Jaylen Harris, Kamryn Babb, Jameson Williams, Sam Wiglusz, Alec Taylor, Austin Kutscher, Marvin Davies, Chris Booker

  • WR-X: Garrett Wilson, Gee Scott Jr, Jameson Williams
  • WR-Z: Chris Olave, Julian Fleming, Kamryn Babb
  • H-B: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Mookie Cooper, Demario McCall

As I stated earlier, there is a ton of talent in this group, and by me leaving out a couple of talented players from this depth chart. At WR-X Garrett Wilson is the leading candidate that could move into the H-Back position if needed. Behind him is talented freshman Gee Scott Jr and Jameson Williams. The next person would be Jaylen Harris as the fourth player in line. This is a group of players that excels at making tough, contested catches routinely with the added ability to gain separation from defenders. Wilson has been a star and he can definitely groom Scott, Williams, and Harris to take their game up a notch.

At the WR-Z it is Chris Olave taking the lead once again with Julian Fleming and Kamryn Babb behind him. The fourth in this group would be Ellijah Gardiner. Olave returns to close his career out on a high note after the end of the Fiesta Bowl. He will lead by example in an effort to win it all this season and he will mentor Fleming, Babb and Harris in the process–like what Wilson is doing. Pay particular attention to Babb to come back strong after injury-plagued seasons. He is another talented player that has been buried by injuries and was left behind with the stockpile of talent at the position. I have a good feeling that he would have a Johnny Dixon type of end to his career–so watch out for him.

Finally, at the H-Back position, Jaxon Smith-Njigba will get the first shot as the new H-Back. Behind him is another talented freshman in Mookie Cooper and Redshirt Senior Demario McCall. Depending on what the offense wants to do, I could see Wilson or Olave filling in at this position to give others a shot at the X and Y positions, but for now, Smith-Njigba and Cooper will get the first shot at it.

This collection of talent is great and I think they’ll put up some Madden stats up if used properly. They will run a balanced offensive attack, but I expect big things from Zone 6 for years to come. There is a lot of potential and I cannot wait for them to unleash it.

#GoBucks

Quarterbacks

With two Saturday’s left before the opening game of the season, we here at The Men of the Scarlet and Gray are getting antsy–and I am especially excited to provide more content to all the people that have supported us amid the content drought.

With the season fast approaching (finally!), I will be starting out with the basics–talking about our beloved Buckeyes. Today’s content will feature our projected two-deep of the offense and a combination of writing styles between Chris and me over the next couple of weeks. This roster is definitely packed full of talent, but we will make it work. Here we go Buckeye Nation.

Quarterbacks: Justin Fields, Gunnar Hoak, C.J. Stroud, Jack Miller III, Jagger LaRoe, Danny Vanatsky, J.P. Andrade

  • QB1: Justin Fields
  • QB2: Gunnar Hoak

The QB1 throne belongs to Fields and we can all expect a Heisman type of season from him this year. The heirs to the throne are the pair of C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller III, but QB2 duties would most likely be entrusted to Hoak, due to his in-game experience (for now at least). QB3/3A would fit Stroud and Miller. They are talented and they are the future along with 2021 stud Kyle McCord. Don’t be surprised if either Stroud or Miller overtake Hoak mid-season. The rest of the group are scout team personnel. This is not to devalue their talent, but they are not going to be leaned upon. Looks for the trio of LaRoe, Vanatsky, and Andrade to pull scout team duties.

Why?

Justin Fields is without a doubt the starter of this prolific Buckeye offense. He is a polished product and with his historic numbers in 2019–he will be looking to cap off his Buckeye career with the accolades and a natty. After he left 2019 behind, he has all the motivation in the world and he will lead this deadly offense to the promised land. With weapons at every level this offense is going to be fun to watch with Fields leading the charge!

Hoak at the backup slot is highly dependent on how Stroud and/or Miller perform in camp over the next two weeks. He is a safe pick, but it could change if either perform well. I can see all three getting in-game experience IF Fields and company are blowing out Nebraska, but we will see. I’d love to get a glimpse of the future, but I won’t be mad if Fields pads his stats for a Heisman run.

MOSTAG Rising: Tongaricious

Hello everyone and thanks for stopping by to read this! This is a newer, fun-styled segment that introduces the writers in the #MOTSAGRising movement that is on Twitter. It is a closer look at our origins and our backstories that is needed to better get to know us as a unit. I am up first.

I am Tongaricious on Twitter, but my name is Richard. I was born and raised in Guam and I am a little over 15 years into a career in the Air Force. I became a Buckeye fan after watching them thrash Nebraska in their first season after joining the Big Ten and I never looked back.

I enjoy talking about games and I pay close attention to recruiting. I wish I had insider powers and I hope to follow it more closely, but with the lack of sources–I am just a fan and a regular guy. I started out with the Men of the Scarlet and Gray for a few years–I did my interview with Jeremiah in 2015 and I have been a staple for the brand since.

I still enjoy writing and I jumped at the chance to get things back since the season is about to begin. It is crazy that I have been writing for five years and I am glad for every person that has contributed and is still contributing today. I am also glad for every person that I have interacted with over the years. Let us bring it forward as we all prepare to have another awesome season. I am excited to continue the tradition of bringing you awesome content.

#GoBucks

Ohio State Buckeyes 2020 Schedule

Revised BIG Ten schedule 2020. Credit: @BIGfootball (Twitter)

I know we are a week late, but with under a month away from the start of the Big Ten season, I have returned with a preview of the 2020 season. Although the Big Ten will start much later than the ACC, Big 12, and the SEC. October 24th will be the beginning of an odd 2020 season, and if you are like me, I would rather have Buckeye football as opposed to not having none of it in the fall.

In an eight game slate, the schedule as a whole is balanced. Yes, it is an easier than expected path with no prime time games (at Oregon), but as I said earlier, I’d rather have football over having none of it. With the schedule, the Buckeyes should have an easy path to an undefeated regular season, but on the side of caution, I would take it game by game.

I am not casting doubt on the team and I believe they are one of the best teams in the nation, but only they could trip themselves up this season. They have a plethora of weapons on offense and an experienced defensive unit in tow. The icing on the cake? They managed to convince Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis to return for one last ride for another Championship run. Here is a breakdown of the upcoming season.

Home Games: Nebraska, Rutgers, Indiana and TTUN

The home game slate is highly favorable with the Buckeyes facing a perennial bottom feeder in Rutgers, who brought back Greg Schiano to accelerate the rebuilding process. They also have brought Brendon White in to help as well. He was a star in the making that got lost in the shuffle due to his size and lack of speed, but I feel he fits Schiano’s scheme and will excel in the defense.

They also face two mid-tier teams in Indiana and Nebraska, which should be interesting to watch. Indiana always seems to be game for contests with the Buckeyes, against their former Head Coach Kevin Wilson. For some odd reason, they always give the Buckeyes fits, but this year could be different with the Buckeyes vying for another dominant season.

Nebraska on the other hand has beaten the Buckeyes once in their time in the Big Ten. The last loss was in 2011 and I see an improved offense showing up, but the talent gap is still too large to win the game. The conference big wigs may have gotten the last laugh after Nebraska made some waves by suing and threatening to leave the conference. Let us just say they got the last laugh by giving them the Buckeyes for their first game. Allies turned into enemies for at least the first week of the upcoming season.

To finish the home slate, the TTUN comes to Columbus for another installment of The Game. This one game is always interesting and this year will be no different. In the typical TTUN style, they are already licking their chops and after the “100-point” rumor starting spiraling out of control, certain team captains are trying to turn in around to end the skid. They have suffered some major losses with COVID opt-outs and NFL draft declarations. I am not saying that they don’t have a shot, but to me, if it comes down to getting into the Playoffs with style points? I am putting my trust into Day and Fields to racking the points up in every game and if they need to–they will get it done to ensure their place in the Top-4.

Away Games: Penn State, Maryand, Illinois and Michigan State

For the away games, the first game is at Penn State and without a full-blown White Out–I really think this game won’t be as close. With Micah Parsons still debating a return, the defense will be missing their best player. Their offense that is normally good has talent, but they are unproven. This might be a good one, but with so many questions and the talent on the Buckeyes roster, I expect a close game that’ll turn ugly once the Buckeyes begin to click together. I could be wrong, but my gut feeling is that of a blowout.

Maryland is an up-and-comer team and there is no denying their talent. It is just a matter of getting them to gel together. There is talent in true freshman Rakin Jarrett and he could be a problem. The Buckeyes always seem to struggle against teams like this and I remember the point-filled contest against the Terrapins a few years ago. We will see how much change has occurred, but they are projected to do better than usual.

Illinois, the Battle for Illibuck is one of those contests that have been one-sided over the years. I remember the last loss to this team after Juice Williams took over and willed his team to victory. Lovie Smith has been developing his players and it is evident that they love playing for him, but again, the talent gap is as wide as it is tall. They’ll make it a contest, but they won’t be able to sustain it.

Lastly, at Michigan State is a game that I am afraid of. Sparty always finds a way to be that roadblock late in the season and I still have the image of the kick-air guitar loss burned into my brain. I hope that doesn’t happen and they have lacked an offense that could compete. Defensively, they’ve suffered some losses to the draft and COVID opt outs, but that is hardly an excuse. This game will be gritty and it’ll be close until Fields has his Heisman moments.

To summarize, this schedule is favorable and it should be fun to watch them pack on the points. There are some tough tests ahead, but it is completely doable. I expect an undefeated season with a few heart-racing conclusions to games. I hope you enjoyed the schedule preview and I am happy to be back to doing what I love to do. #GoBucks

MOTSAG Pretend College Football Playoffs: #5 Georgia vs. #4 Oklahoma

In a battle for conference supremacy this round pits #4 Oklahoma up against #5 Georgia. Oklahoma got some much needed rest as Georgia ran managed to stave off Miami (OH) with a clutch field goal and a crucial defensive stop to end their dreams of advancing.

These two teams have explosive offenses and the last time both of these teams met was in the Rose Bowl the 2017-2018 season. That very game was a barn burner and it ended in a 54-48, double overtime thriller. This years hypothetical matchup would future a familiar foe for Georgia in Jalen Hurts, the former Alabama quarterback. Jake Fromm versus Jalen Hurts vie for a shot to advance.

During the coin toss, the calm before the storm was evident. Both teams stand tall, calm and stoic and Georgia calls the toss and defers giving Hurts the balls first. After a touchback in the opening kickoff Hurts approaches the huddle and calls the play out. Georgia, who had struggled against inferior opponents finds themselves with their pants down on the opening snap. Boom! Hurts finds Lamb on a slant and he takes it to the house for six. On the ensuing kickoff, Swift nearly provides an immediate answer as he takes it to the 50 yard line. Georgia takes their times during the drive, but is stopped in the red zone. Blankenship puts the Bulldogs on the board.

Hurts starts at the 30 on this drive and he leans on Sermon and Brooks and they drive to the 30 before adding three to their lead. Fromm begins the drive and he finds George Pickens on a streak to tie the contest at 10-10. Georgia usually struggles with the quick scoring game, but the cheating safety misjudged Pickens’ speed and got burnt for six.

Hurts controls the current drive late into the first quarter with a balance of QB option runs and timing routes and they are knocking at the door before the quarter came to a close. To open the second quarter, Brooks finds the seam and he barges in for a touchdown. Georgia’s defense was just bloodied in the last drive and the Bulldog’s got them some well deserved rest as they use up the majority of the second quarter before Swift plunges it into the end zone with a little over two minutes left in the half.

In a 17 all game, Hurts runs the two minute drill to perfection. Finding his running backs on swing passes before finding Lamb once again for a touchdown, Hurts puts his teams back up 24-17 before Fromm took a knee to send it into the half. To open the second half, Georgia came out firing. Fromm finds Cager in the seams at will, but in the red zone, Fromm forces a errant pass over the middle that ended up becoming a pick-six–Oklahoma extends their lead to 31-17.

On Fromm’s next possession, the timing and the momentum was all in the Sooners’ favor as they end up punting in the next three possessions. Both teams are struggling to find a rhythm on offense but the defenses are playing lights out. Hurts’ team has the ball late into the third quarter and he loses the exchange with Brooks and Georgia recovers. Three players later, Swift breaks through for a 20 yard dash to the end zone to cut the lead to 24-31.

The Sooners respond with a strike to Charleston Rambo to put them back up by double-digits early in the fourth quarter. Georgia tried to respond, but after back-to-back drive ending interceptions by Kenneth Murray and Brendan Radley-Hines, the Bulldogs fall 38-24. The same turnover-prone quarterback play resurfaced and Fromm just couldn’t put it all together. The Sooners get their revenge and advance.

MOSTAG Pretend CFB Playoffs: #6 Utah vs. #11 FAU

In a time where we remain sportless, in a time where COVID-19 rules the skies, we here at the Men of the Scarlet and Gray present the strictly hypothetical “Expanded College Football Playoffs”. We have all dreamed of expansion, but here we have a cool little set-up that was created by my colleague Chris. 12 teams with one goal, to make it to the Championship Game. All the Power Five champions along with the Group of Five Champions and sprinkle in a pair of at large bids and we have our football version of the “Big Dance”.

For the play-in we have an at large team from the PAC 12 going up against the Conference USA Champion FAU. In this matchup, Utah takes a stellar defense and they go up against a decent, quick scoring passing attack.

As the contest begins, Utah demonstrates their defensive prowess and for a quick 3-and-out, forcing Kiffin to an early change of possession and stopping them from getting into a grove. Utah gains possession and they impose their will as they run roughshod and beat the Owls senseless through the ground with Moss and Huntley gaining chunk after chunk before Moss takes it in for the score.

Visibly rattled, but while remaining calm, Chris Robison takes a huge chunk out of the first quarter before plunging it into the endzone to tie the score at seven each. Robison engineered quite the drive as he came up clutch for the better of the 8-minute drive and he gained some valuable momentum as he made the Ute defense pay.

As the Utes grabbed the punt, Simpkins takes one back to the house just as the first quarter had expired to push the lead up the 14-7. On the ensuing drive for FAU, lightning almost struck twice as Cousart nearly responded with a return for a touchdown of his own before being tripped up at the 50 yard line. The balanced effort became the focus of the Owls offense as Davidson does the majority of the work on the ground to grind the Utah defense into a pulp. On a 3rd-and-5, Kiffin opts for a trick play and it payed off! On the double-sweep, Antoine took it in for another Owl touchdown.

Utah, forever the puncher responds quickly. They use Moss and Huntley on the ground with jet sweeps from Simpkins to open up the offense, but a mistimed exchange on the QB option derailed a scoring drive that ended in the redzone. Rashad Smith comes out from the pile with the ball in tow with the game still tied at 14.

The Utah defense comes off the sideline angry and they quickly force a turnover courtesy of an interception by Burgess at the 50 yard line. Huntley is hitting open receiver at will before finding Kuithe in the seams for a quick score. The Ute defense held their own the rest of the game up until Coach Kiffin’s squad started making plays just before the half. Not to be outdone, they went on a drive that took the entirety of the second quarter. First down after first down they took the clock down just before kicking it for three to enter the half 21-17.

To open the second quarter the Utes again shoved it down the Owls’ throats. Run after run, the Utah offense opened up the third quarter with an efficient and quick drive for another touchdown. Utah goes up 27-17 on the heels of a missed extra point. The fighting Kiffin’s responded quickly as well with a bomb to Harrison Bryant, who found himself open as he sprinted 45 yards to the endzone. Kiffin trying to seize momentum opted for two and converted. The aggressive play swung momentum as the Owls were now down by two.

Utah failed to respond as they went three and out. FAU went on another drive and Bryant made an appearance in the endzone once against to take the lead 32-27. With another wasted possession that resulted in a punt, Utah forced a fumble in the redzone on the ensuing drive. Before we knew it, Moss plunged it into the endzone and Huntley ran it in for two to retake the lead 35-32. The Utah defense responded by forcing a punt and took the clock down deep into the third quarter before punting it as the quarter expired.

In the 4th quarter, FAU controlled the ball for the majority of the contest to try and slow down the Utah offense. They run and convert the ball before settling for a game-tying FG. Utah regains control of the ball with less than a minute left in the game. Huntley and his heroics shined in the waning minutes as he drove down the field from their 20 yard line before Moss took it to the house with 20 seconds remaining. FAU received the punt and nearly broke it off as a response. The drive ultimately fell short as Bernard and Anae combined for a strip-sack as they regained possession with no time left. Utah advances to face #4 Oklahoma.