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Texas overcomes Ehlinger injury, routs Colorado 55-23

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN ANTONIO — Texas has been tested all year, but losing senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger to a shoulder injury was an obstacle the Longhorns never anticipated.

The same spirit that pushed the team through this entire chaotic season helped the Longhorns thrive without him.

Sophomore signal-caller Casey Thompson came off the bench and passed for 170 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 20 Texas overcame Ehlinger’s injury to beat Colorado 55-23 in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Tuesday night.

Freshman running back Bijan Robinson had 183 yards on 10 carries with a TD for Texas (7-3). He was selected the bowl’s offensive MVP.

“We had a lot of young guys that stepped up in this game,” Robinson said.

The Longhorns are undefeated in four bowl games under Tom Herman, unbeaten as a head coach in five bowls overall.

“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by some really dedicated young men that 10 months ago made a decision that they were going to go to work every day and do whatever it took to get through this season together,” Herman said. “And they did. We had our ups and downs, but they never wavered. They never gave up hope. They never gave up confidence. They kept playing for each other. I couldn’t be prouder of my team.”

More adversity developed against the Buffaloes (4-2).

Ehlinger missed the second half after sustaining a shoulder injury in the second quarter. Herman said he was uncertain when the injury occurred, but Ehlinger returned to the field in the third quarter in warmups, with his right arm in a sling. There was no immediate word on the extent of his injury.

“I hated that he couldn’t finish the game, but we wouldn’t be here without him,” Herman said. “He was the leader behind this senior class. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but I know that I’m thankful for him being on our team, being on my team each and every day. What he means to us is indescribable.”

The NCAA is offering athletes an extra year of eligibility given the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unknown if Ehlinger will return.

He played the entire first half Tuesday, completing 10 of 16 passes for 160 yards and a score.

Colorado was playing its sixth game of the season due to the coronavirus. The Pac-12 initially canceled its season only to reverse the decision and delay the start until Nov. 7.

The Buffaloes had two games canceled due to virus issues, but competed in the Alamo Bowl despite failing to reach the traditional six-win threshold required for the postseason.

The Longhorns appeared more polished throughout, striking quickly to open both halves.

Fueled by a 39-yard pass from Ehlinger to Joshua Moore, Texas drove 74 yards on four plays in 50 seconds on its opening possession. Robinson dove in for an 8-yard TD run with 12:51 left in the opening quarter.

Robinson scored again two possessions later, catching a 14-yard pass from Ehlinger with 5:28 remaining in the first.

The Longhorns didn’t take a step back without Ehlinger.

Thompson started the second half in place of Ehlinger and led Texas to a touchdown on its opening possession. Thompson completed a 13-yard scoring pass to Moore just 37 seconds into the third for a 24-10 advantage.

Thompson added a 25-yard touchdown pass to Moore, a 23-yarder to Robinson and a 73-yarder to Kelvontay Dixon. The backup was 8 of 10 on the night.

“I’m really proud of the young guys,” Herman said. “I’m really, really excited about the future. What these last two games playing so many young guys has shown is the trajectory of our program and what we’re capable of with these young guys.”

Cameron Dicker set an Alamo Bowl record with a 53-yard field goal late in the first half that extended the Longhorns’ lead to 17-7.

Colorado’s only sustained drive of the first quarter ended in an interception when Sam Noyer threw into a group of four defenders. Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown made his second interception of the season, picking off Noyer at the Buffaloes 11-yard line. Overshown had six tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery

Jarek Broussard rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries for Colorado.

TAKEAWAY

Colorado: Despite the lopsided loss, coach Karl Dorrell‘s tenure with the Buffaloes is off to a good start. Colorado went 3-1 in the Pac-12 under Dorrell, who signed a five-year contract in the offseason.

Texas: The Longhorns found a capable replacement for Ehlinger in Thompson. The 6-foot-1 sophomore displayed his elusiveness, escaping a heavy rush early in the third quarter for a 22-yard run. He also demonstrated his arm strength by throwing over the defense for a 73-yard touchdown to Dixon in the fourth.

Tide, Irish, Tigers, Buckeyes hold steady atop CFP rankings

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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For the third straight week, Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State held on to the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings.

The selection committee’s second-from-last rankings had only a little movement in the top 10. Texas A&M is still fifth and Florida held at sixth.

Iowa State moved up a couple of spots to seventh after earning a spot in the Big 12 title game. Cincinnati slipped a spot to eighth after an idle week because of COVID-19 issues in the program.

The Bearcats also will not play this week against Tulsa, the committee’s 24th-ranked team. Those two schools are scheduled to meet Dec. 19 in the American Athletic Conference title game.

Ohio State is also currently without a game this weekend after Michigan had to cancel because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The Buckeyes had to cancel their game two Saturdays ago because of their own virus issues. Last week they beat Michigan State 52-12 without more than a dozen scholarship players, including three starting offensive linemen.

“That certainly got our attention,” selection committee chairman Gary Barta said.

Georgia is ninth and Miami is 10th.

Coastal Carolina, coming off a big victory against BYU, jumped five spots to No. 13.

TWO HATS

Barta is also the athletic director at Iowa, a member of the Big Ten.

The Big Ten currently has a bit of dilemma on its hands. Ohio State (5-0) might not play enough games to be eligible to play in the Big Ten championship game.

As part of his real job, Barta will meet with his colleagues in the Big Ten on Wednesday, a regularly scheduled meeting. Barta said he does not know the agenda of that meeting and declined to speculate, but it doesn’t seem to be stretch to think that Ohio State’s situation will come up.

Should the Big Ten try to shuffle this week’s schedule to get Ohio State an opponent? Should the ADs who made the minimum games rule way back in the summer when the conference first started altering its schedule to deal with the pandemic simply change the rule to let Ohio State play for the title?

Or keep it the way it is and match up Ohio State with the second-best team in the West Division, likely Iowa, on the weekend of Dec. 19 while Northwestern and Indiana play in the Big Ten championship game?

That’s if Indiana can play. The Hoosiers paused team activities Tuesday because of COVID-19 cases.

The Big Ten ADs not only have to figure out what is fair to Ohio State and the rest of the conference, they also must consider how best to protect the integrity and value of their league championship game.

On top of that, they also should be thinking about what is the best way to put the Buckeyes in position to be picked for the playoff by the selection committee.

And one of the people helping to make those decisions is Barta, who should have a pretty good idea of how the committee views Ohio State.

How will Barta deal with this?

“I am going to go into it the way I try to go into everything and that is I’m going do the right thing, what I believe is the right thing for college football, for the CFP and certainly as we have since the beginning of COVID, the right thing for student-athlete health and safety,” Barta said.

AP Top 25: No. 1 Alabama leads locked-in top 8 for 4th week

Mickey Welsh-USA TODAY Sports
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Alabama is the unanimous No. 1 again in The Associated Press college football poll as the top eight teams in the rankings held steady for the fourth week in a row.

The Crimson Tide got 62 first-place votes for the second consecutive week and are followed by No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Clemson.

Southeastern Conference teams Texas A&M and Florida are fifth and sixth, respectively. Unbeaten Cincinnati is seventh and undefeated BYU is eighth.

The changes in the poll came after that, with Miami inching up to No. 9 and Indiana returning to the top 10.

Oregon’s first loss of the season knocked the Ducks out of the top 10, dropping them 12 spots to No. 21.

POLL POINTS

The Crimson Tide have now been ranked for 209 consecutive AP polls, matching Florida’s run from 1990-2002 under Steve Spurrier for the third-longest streak in the history of the rankings.

Florida State is second at 211 straight poll appearances from 1989-2001. With two games against losing teams left on Alabama’s schedule, the Tide are likely to catch Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles before the SEC championship game on Dec. 19.

The record for longest streak of poll appearances is still way in the distance for Alabama. Nebraska appeared in 348 straight AP rankings from 1981-2002.

IN-N-OUT

Texas, Auburn and North Carolina dropped out of the rankings after each lost for the third time this season. All three started the season ranked and at some point spent time in the top 10.

The replacements were two teams returning to the poll and one making its season debut:

– No. 23 Washington is ranked for the first time this season after it improved to 3-0 with a 21-point comeback against Utah on Saturday night.

– No. 24 Iowa was also 24th in the preseason. The Hawkeyes disappeared from the rankings along with the rest of the Big Ten when it did not look as if the conference would play in the fall. When the Big Ten returned, Iowa didn’t quite make the cut among voters, but four victories in a row have the Hawkeyes back where they started.

– No. 25 Liberty is back after a week out.

CONFERENCE CALL

Big Ten – 5 (Nos. 3, 10, 16, 18, 24).

SEC – 4 (Nos. 1, 5, 6, 11).

ACC – 3 (Nos. 2, 4, 9).

Big 12 – 3 (Nos. 12, 13, 19).

Pac-12 – 3 (Nos. 17, 21, 23).

American – 2 (Nos. 7, 22).

Sun Belt – 2 (Nos. 14, 20).

C-USA – 1 (No. 15).

Independents – 2 (No. 8, 25).

RANKED vs. RANKED

No. 10 Indiana at No. 18 Wisconsin. The Badgers have already have had three games canceled, virtually eliminating them from the Big Ten West race. Meanwhile, Indiana could be in line to take the East if Ohio State can’t make the conference’s minimum games requirement.

No. 25 Liberty at No. 14 Coastal Carolina. Who had Flames-Chanticleers as a matchup of ranked teams when the game was scheduled in August?