Dec 18, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive end Michael Brockers (90) brings down New York Jets running back Frank Gore (21) after a short gain in the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rams DE Brockers joins WR Kupp on COVID-19 list

The Los Angeles Rams added another key player to the COVID-19/reserve list Thursday in advance of a key Week 17 home matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.

Defensive end Michael Brockers joined wide receiver Cooper Kupp on the list. While Kupp reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play Sunday, there is no indication if Brockers tested positive or was in close contact with somebody that did.

Brockers, whose reason for not practicing Wednesday was listed as “not injury related,” still could play Sunday if he was deemed to have a medium-risk close contact. He would not be able to play if he tested positive or had a high-risk contacted with somebody who was infected.

The Rams already will be without quarterback Jared Goff, who underwent surgery this week for a thumb injury that occurred during Sunday’s loss at Seattle. John Wolford, who has never taken a snap in an NFL game, will start against the Cardinals with a playoff spot on the line.

The Rams would advance to the playoffs with a victory over the Cardinals on Sunday or a Chicago Bears loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Cardinals need a victory to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

The loss of Brockers would be a blow to a Rams defense that leads the NFL with 286.5 yards allowed per game. The unit also is third in points allowed in the NFL at 19.3 per game.

Brockers, who has 51 tackles and five sacks this season, is a team captain along with Kupp.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2020; Charlotte, NC, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) runs for a touchdown in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Favored Clemson where the money is vs. Ohio State

Second-ranked Clemson is being backed by the overwhelming amount of betting action despite entering Friday’s College Football Playoff semifinal as more than a touchdown favorite over No. 3 Ohio State.

The Tigers are 7.5-point favorites, with 66 percent of the bets at DraftKings and 76 percent at FanDuel backing Clemson. The action is even more skewed on the moneyline, with Clemson backed by 76 percent of the bets at DraftKings (-295) and 79 percent at FanDuel (-280).

The Sugar Bowl will be a rematch between Clemson (10-1) and Ohio State (6-0), which suffered a 29-23 loss to the Tigers in last year’s CFP semifinals.

“If we’re playing Ohio State, it’s a playoff,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “Or it was a BCS bowl, back in 2013 in the Orange Bowl. We don’t have them on our regular schedule anytime in the near future, so you know it is a big, big postseason game when you play those guys.”

Plenty of offensive fireworks are expected in Friday’s second semifinal, with both sportsbooks setting the Over/Under at 66.5 points. The Over is being backed by 82 percent of the bets and 64 percent of the handle at DraftKings and 81 and 85 percent, respectfully, at FanDuel.

The No. 3 Buckeyes will try to establish the run using Trey Sermon, who gained a school and FBS conference championship game-record 331 yards during a 22-10 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten title game.

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for 322 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 90 yards and a score to down the Fighting Irish 34-10 to win the ACC championship Saturday.

He got support from running back Travis Etienne (124 yards and a TD on 10 carries).

Those two were lethal vs. the Buckeyes last season. Lawrence had 259 passing yards and a touchdown, plus 107 yards and a score on the ground while Etienne had 134 all-purpose yards and three TDs.

“I think (Lawrence) and Etienne are two of the most dynamic players in college football, and probably in the history of college football,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2020; Tucson, AZ, USA; San Jose State Spartans tight end Derrick Deese Jr. (87) is upended against the Ball State Cardinals in the first half of the Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ball State captures first bowl win in history vs. No. 22 San Jose State

No. 22 San Jose State was in a bind before Thursday’s Arizona Bowl started with eight coaches and players not available for undisclosed reasons, which contributed to the Spartans’ 34-13 loss to Ball State in Tucson.

Behind Drew Plitt’s 217 yards on 12-of-19 passing, the Cardinals (7-1) achieved their first bowl victory in program history and are now 1-8-1.

A few minutes before kickoff, San Jose State (7-1) announced offensive and defensive coordinators — Kevin McGiven and Derrick Odum, respectively — and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Cade Hall, a defensive end, were unavailable for the game.

Also not in Arizona Stadium were receiver Bailey Gaither, running back/kickoff returner Shamar Garrett, safety Tre Jenkins and offensive linemen Kyle Hoppe and Tyler Stevens.

Hall led San Jose State this season with 10 sacks and 12 tackles for loss and was named a first-team All-America this week by the Sporting News.

The Spartans also lost tight end Derrick Deese, who had a team-high five touchdown receptions entering the game, after he hurt his neck early in the first quarter while making a reception.

Ball State stunned San Jose State with a 27-0 lead in the first quarter, and it maintained that advantage at halftime.

Antonio Phillips started the scoring returning an interception 53 yards to the end zone with 12:47 left in the first quarter.

Nick Starkel, the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, threw the pick. He completed 25 of 42 passes for 268 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He sat out a possession in the second quarter because of a knee injury.

Will Jones and Tye Evans each scored on 3-yard runs in Ball State’s first two offensive possessions and then Plitt rushed in from a yard on a quarterback sneak to put the Cardinals ahead 27-0 with 1:04 left in the first quarter.

His score occurred six plays after Ball State’s Nic Jones blocked a punt, giving the Cardinals the ball at the San Jose State 35.

Plitt’s 48-yard touchdown pass to Yo’Heinz Tyler with 9:42 left in the third quarter increased the lead to 34-0.

Charlie Bostic followed with a 99-yard kickoff return to put San Jose State on the board. A 2-point conversion pass failed.

Starkel’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Jermai Braddock with 1 second left in the third quarter completed the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2020; Fort Worth, TX, USA; The Mississippi State Bulldogs and Tulsa Golden Hurricane teams fight after the game at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Postgame brawl mars Tulsa-Mississippi State bowl game

An ugly postgame brawl erupted after the Armed Forces Bowl between No. 24 Tulsa and Mississippi State on Thursday and at least one player was injured.

Tulsa safety Kendarin Ray was helped off the field after reportedly being hit in the head by a helmet. Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery said Ray is being treated for a concussion.

Video of the brawl show players from both sides throwing punches and even a few are seen delivering kicks. Coaching staffs of both teams were powerless to stop it and Fort Worth security and law enforcement personnel were on the field trying to calm the situation.

After Tulsa safety Tieneal Martin threw some punches and fell to the ground, Mississippi State receiver Malik Heath can be seen delivering a kick to Martin’s facemask.

Montgomery says his players were just sticking up for one another.

“The one thing I’ll say is our program, our guys, we’re a team that is going to stand up for each other and we’re going to battle,” Montgomery said. “We’re a team that has battled all year long. We battled again today.”

The teams also had to be separated prior to the game, so tensions were high throughout Mississippi State’s 28-26 victory.

Afterward, Bulldogs coach Mike Leach implied his team wasn’t the cause of the incidents.

“I’m not sure what exactly caused that,” Leach said of the postgame skirmish. “There was something before the game, too. We never had any problem with that the entire season, so you know, I can only guess without seeing the film.

“But prior to this game, we’ve never had any trouble with that.”

Asked how he would address it with this team, Leach said, “Don’t do it anymore. It’s just dumb. There was some of that stuff going back and forth in the course of the game.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA;  Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (10) celebrate a touchdown pass from Jones to Smith at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the second half of Alabama's 41-0 win over Mississippi State. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby Jr/The Tuscaloosa News via USA TODAY Sports

Alabama historic favorite in expected shootout vs. Notre Dame

The biggest favorite in College Football Playoff history is understandably being backed by the vast majority of bettors, but can Notre Dame put up a fight against No. 1 Alabama in Friday’s first semifinal?

That’s where bettors are more split ahead of the New Year’s Day clash.

The Crimson Tide are nearly three-touchdown favorites over the Fighting Irish at most sportsbooks, easily breaking the previous record held by Alabama as a 14.5-point favorite over Oklahoma in 2018-19.

While the Crimson Tide are being backed by 80 percent off the moneyline bets at DraftKings (-1115), the Fighting Irish have been backed by 56 percent of the spread bets. Of the total money bet, 64 percent has been on Alabama on the spread line and 56 percent on the spread.

The line had moved to 20 points at FanDuel, where 79 percent of the moneyline bets (Alabama -1000) and 65 percent of the spread line bets have backed the Crimson Tide.

The Rose Bowl, moved from Pasadena to the Dallas area due to California’s COVID-19 protocols, is a huge mismatch on paper.

The Over/Under has been set at 65.5 points, with the action backing the Over at more than 80 percent at both sportsbooks.

The Crimson Tide have topped 50 points in each of their past three games. The Fighting Irish (10-1) don’t want to get into a shootout, but they did top 40 points six times this season.

Notre Dame, which ranks 14th in scoring defense (18.6 points per game), was superb early in the season by limiting five of the first six opponents to 13 or fewer points. But it sprung many leaks down the stretch by allowing more than 30 in three of the past five games, including a 34-10 whipping at the hands of Clemson in the ACC title game.

“We’ve been humbled about the way we play,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, “and this team has always come back with a resilience and an edge about them, and they will against Alabama.”

The Crimson Tide (11-0) topped 50 six times and averaged 49.7 points — second-best nationally — while being led by a trio of big-time performers.

DeVonta Smith has the opportunity to be first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991. He has 98 receptions for 1,511 yards and 17 touchdowns. During the 52-46 win over Florida in the SEC title game, Smith (3,620 yards) passed Amari Cooper (3,463 from 2012-14) as Alabama’s all-time leader in receiving yardage.

Quarterback Mac Jones also is in the Heisman mix and has thrown for 3,739 yards and 32 touchdowns against four interceptions. Najee Harris has rushed for 1,262 yards and 24 touchdowns and also has three receiving scores.

“We’ve certainly been very productive on offense,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “This has been an unusual year for a lot of teams but I think our players have stayed focus on the right things amid a lot of abnormal things.”

The offensive fireworks aren’t just limited to the current season. Alabama has scored 35 or more points in a major-college record 24 consecutive games since losing to Clemson 44-16 in the CFP title game to end the 2018 season.

The Crimson Tide are 22-2 during the stretch but Saban isn’t interested in hearing about how the semifinal matchup with Notre Dame is going to be some type of easy stroll in the park.

“I know they have a really good team,” Saban said on ESPN. “I know they have a really good quarterback. They have a tough defense. They have some skill guys who can make plays.

“You don’t win 10 games in a season without having really good players.”

Quarterback Ian Book has a 30-4 record as a starter for the Irish. He has passed for 2,601 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions in 314 attempts.

The winner of this game will face either No. 2 Clemson or No. 3 Ohio State in the national championship game.

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2020; Arlington, TX, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) throws a pass against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second quarter at ATT Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Florida record-setting QB Trask declares for NFL draft

Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask announced Thursday that he is entering the NFL draft.

Trask made his announcement in a video posted to various social media sites.

“I feel that it’s best to chase my dreams of playing in the NFL,” Trask said. “I’ve had dreams of playing in the NFL ever since I was a kid. Just to have this opportunity to play at the next level, it’s crazy and I’m going to try and go and make the most of it.”

Trask enjoyed a stellar 2020 season in which he set school records of 4,283 passing yards and 43 touchdowns passes. He topped 400 yards five times and twice threw six scoring passes.

Trask was intercepted eight times, three of them coming in a 55-20 loss to Oklahoma in Wednesday’s Cotton Bowl. He passed for a season-low 158 yards.

But the poor showing against the Sooners wasn’t diminishing Trask’s enthusiasm about his time with the Gators. He grew up near Houston and never imagined that playing in the Sunshine State would be such a life-changing experience.

“I will definitely always remember the memories we made and the big-time wins we had over the past couple years,” Trask said. “I will always be a Gator. I will always bleed Orange and Blue.”

Trask wasn’t a big-time recruit — his first start didn’t occur until Game 3 of the 2019 season — nor was he considered a high NFL draft pick prior to the season.

But the strong campaign improved his stock. He now rates as a one of the top half-dozen available quarterbacks and his name will surely be called within the first two rounds.

Gators coach Dan Mullen has enjoyed watching Trask’s rise.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him and the season that he had with our team this year. A special, special year for him,” Mullen said. “I’m really happy for him. I mean, you’re talking about a young guy that came in, I think only played a couple plays in his career before he even graduated college. Didn’t play much in high school. And now he’s a Heisman Trophy finalist and he’s going to be an NFL draft pick. So that says a lot about him.”

Trask said he has always drawn motivation from the doubters.

“When I think about it, just being counted out so many times,” Trask said of his career. “When people doubt me, it’s nothing new to me. It doesn’t hold me down. I don’t dwell on it. I just try to prove them wrong. I think that’s ultimately what’s gotten me here today.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2020; Fort Worth, TX, USA; Tulsa Golden Hurricane wide receiver Josh Johnson (13) is tackled by Mississippi State Bulldogs cornerback Emmanuel Forbes (13) during the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State edges No. 24 Tulsa in Armed Forces Bowl

Will Rogers threw one touchdown pass and ran for a score as Mississippi State held off No. 24 Tulsa 28-26 in a rainy Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Emmanuel Forbes had a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown and Lideatrick Griffin, who caught Rogers’ touchdown pass, contributed 138 kickoff return yards to help the Bulldogs (4-7) overcome a sluggish offensive performance that produced just 270 yards.

Zach Smith passed for 347 yards and a touchdown, but threw two crucial interceptions for the Golden Hurricane (6-3).

The contest was marred by an ugly postgame brawl in which punches and kicks were plentiful.

The Tulsa defense held down the Mississippi State offense even without linebacker Zaven Collins, the Nagurski Award winner as the top defensive player in the country who opted out to focus on the NFL Draft.

The Bulldogs led 7-6 at halftime and Rogers scrambled 13 yards for a touchdown that gave Mississippi State a 14-6 lead.

Deneric Prince answered on the next possession with a 13-yard touchdown run for Tulsa.

The Golden Hurricane was poised to take their first lead of the game, but Forbes made his pick-six against Smith for a 21-13 Mississippi State lead at the end of the third quarter.

A botched punt by Mississippi State gave Tulsa a first down at the Bulldogs’ 32-yard line and nine plays later Corey Taylor II ran 5 yards for a touchdown. A two-point pass went incomplete, leaving MSU with a 21-19 lead with 12:30 remaining.

Rogers threw a 13-yard touchdown to Griffin to increase the lead to 28-19 with 8:01 left.

Smith drove the Golden Hurricane to the Bulldogs’ 6, but was intercepted by Tyrus Wheat before directing Tulsa to his 15-yard touchdown pass to Keylon Stokes with 1:23 left. Stokes had nine catches for 117 yards.

Griffin returned the opening kickoff 53 yards to the Tulsa 39-yard line.

Three plays later Jo’Quavious Marks ran 28 yards for a 7-0 Bulldogs lead that lasted through the end of the first quarter.

Zack Long made field goals of 27 and 33 yards to pull the Golden Hurricane within 7-6 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Oct 4, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Lions WR Golladay out for season finale vs. Vikings

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay will not play in the regular-season finale against the visiting Minnesota Vikings, interim coach Darrell Bevell announced Thursday.

Golladay, 27, sustained a hip injury during the first half of the Lions’ 41-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 1. He hasn’t played since.

Golladay has 20 catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season after topping 1,000 receiving yards in each of the previous two campaigns. He was selected to the Pro Bowl with 65 catches for 1,190 yards and an NFL-high 11 touchdowns in 2019.

Now questions loom as to whether Golladay has played his last down with the Lions.

Golladay, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason, said earlier this month that he’d be interested in a long-term deal with the team as opposed to being under the franchise tag.

–Field Level Media

Dec 26, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raidersat Allegiant Stadium. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 26-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Dolphins’ Fitzpatrick tests positive for COVID-19

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has tested positive for COVID-19, the NFL Network reported on Thursday.

Fitzpatrick did not practice on Thursday for the Dolphins, who will have rookie Tua Tagovailoa under center three days later in their regular-season finale against the host Buffalo Bills.

Miami has yet to publicly comment on the reason for Fitzpatrick’s absence.

Fitzpatrick, 38, has completed 183 of 267 passes for 2,091 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games this season.

Tagovailoa, who was the fifth overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, has thrown for 1,453 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in nine games this season.

Fitzpatrick relieved Tagovailoa in a 26-25 last-second win over the host Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 26, making a key 41-yard pass while under pressure to set up the decisive field goal.

Quarterback Jake Rudock was signed on Thursday and he participated in practice and is expected to serve as the backup to Tagovailoa against Buffalo.

The Dolphins (10-5) will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Bills (12-3) in Buffalo. A loss by the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts or Baltimore Ravens also would send Miami to the postseason for just the third time since 2001.

–Field Level Media

Aug 19, 2020; Owings Mills, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) warms up before the morning session of training camp at Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Ravens CB Smith agrees to one-year deal

Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith agreed to a one-year contract worth up to $5 million, agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed to multiple media outlets on Thursday.

The one-year deal is the second in 2020 for Smith, who was in line to hit free agency after this season. Smith signed a one-year, $6 million contract in March.

Smith, 32, recorded 27 tackles and one fumble recovery in 11 games (five starts) in 2020.

He has 356 tackles, 14 interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 118 career games (88 starts) all with the Ravens. He was selected by Baltimore in the first round (27th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Smith missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and did not participate in practice on Wednesday. His availability for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Bengals in Cincinnati is unknown.

–Field Level Media