Ravens

BCS standings set up semifinal in SEC title game

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BCS standings set up semifinal in SEC title game

NEW YORK (AP) Two years before the playoffs start in college football, the Southeastern Conference is staging a semifinal to determine who plays Notre Dame in the BCS title game.

Alabama (.9236) was second and Georgia (.8911) third in the BCS standings released Sunday. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs play Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC championship.

The winner will advance to the national championship game in Miami on Jan. 7 against the Fighting Irish (.9979), who locked up their spot Saturday with a 22-13 victory against Southern California.

``If you think about what the game means, this that and the other, it doesn't really help you win the game,'' Georgia coach Mark Richt said. ``The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting your mind ready to go to battle. That's what you've got to do.''

Florida (.8882) is fourth in the standings, but with no games left, looks stuck behind their SEC rivals. The good news for the Gators is they are likely to get an at-large BCS bid to the Sugar Bowl, while the SEC runner-up is out of the big games all together.

``For either one of these teams, it's not really a great scenario,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

One way or another, the SEC will get a shot at its seventh straight BCS championship.

The Bowl Championship Series is in its second-to-last season. It will be replaced by a four-team playoff in 2014.

While the race for the BCS title game is now fairly straight forward heading into championship weekend in college football, there's some intrigue to watch for involving potential BCS busters.

Kent State is 17th in the standings and Northern Illinois is 21st. They'll meet in the Mid-American Conference championship game on Friday night in Detroit.

Because it is almost a certainty that the Big East champion - Louisville and Rutgers will determine who that is on Thursday night in New Jersey - will be ranked behind the MAC champion in the final BCS standings, if either Kent State or NIU can get into the top 16, they would receive an automatic BCS bid. The MAC has never sent a team to the BCS.

Neither Louisville nor Rutgers is in the BCS top 25 this week.

Boise State from the Mountain West is 20th in the standings and also still in the mix for that BCS buster bid if it can jump ahead of the MAC teams and into the first 16. The Broncos play Nevada on Saturday to earn a share of the MW title.

The team that could be hurt most if a BCS buster emerges is Oklahoma. The Sooners are sitting 11th in the standings with a game left against TCU. With another victory, they would seem to be in good shape to get into the BCS even if Kansas State clinches the Big 12 by beating Texas.

But that at-large spot could get gobbled up by a BCS buster.

Other BCS automatic bids will be determined this weekend in the Pac-12, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference.

UCLA plays at Stanford in the Pac-12 title game with the winner going to the Rose Bowl.

Wisconsin and Nebraska will play for the Big Ten's Rose Bowl berth.

Florida State and Georgia Tech play for the ACC title and a spot in the Orange Bowl.

Oregon is fifth in the latest standings, and like Florida, done with its regular season and in good shape to receive an at-large BCS bid.

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

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Lamar Jackson makes history with career day in win over the Bengals

BALTIMORE — Lamar Jackson set the tone for Sunday’s game on the Ravens' first drive of the afternoon. 

He rushed just twice, one of which went for a touchdown, but had 57 yards on the game-tying opening drive. 

Jackson finished with 152 yards on the ground — a career high — to carry the Ravens to a 23-17 win over the Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. 

“I take advantage, like I said before, and I’m trying to win at the end of the day,” Jackson said after the game. “If I’ve got to run, I’ve got to do it and today that’s what it was. Sometimes I had to pass. Sometimes I had to run.”

He did throw for 236 yards and completed 21 of 33 passes, too. But the story was his legs, which kept the Bengals off-balance all day.

“Lamar was able to get out and run because of the way they were playing,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They were playing kind of spill defense. They really didn’t want us to run the ball up inside with our running backs, and that opened up some other things."

Jackson now has 460 rushing yards on the season and is on pace for over 1,200. He’s also on pace for just over 4,000 passing yards.

His dual-threat ability has flummoxed nearly every team the Ravens have played this season. Jackson has had over 300 scrimmage yards in all but one (last week in against the Steelers) of the Ravens' games. 

“That’s the most frustrating thing for a defense,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “You have a play covered, and he’s an elite athlete. We’ve played a couple of good athletes. He’s one of the rarest I’ve seen in person. Just one little crease and he’s got 30 yards on you.”

Cincinnati sold out to stop the interior run, and Jackson and the rest of the Baltimore running attack burned the Bengals on the outside. 

Jackson’s elusiveness was never more evident than on the Ravens' last full drive of the game. The Ravens received the ball with 13:32 left in the fourth quarter and a 20-10 lead. They didn’t give the ball back to the Bengals until there was just over three minutes to play.

“I catch myself on the sideline stretching because, you know, they’ll be holding the ball for a minute and we’ve got to stay warm,” Matthew Judon said. “He picks us up in crucial times and keeps getting first downs. It’s hard, man. You can’t cover everybody and keep a spy on him [at] all times.”

The nine minute, 46 second drive, highlighted by a 16-yard Jackson scramble on 3rd and 14, put away any realistic chance the Bengals had of pulling off an upset.

It capped off a historic day for Jackson and his place in the NFL record books. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 150 yards and register at least 200 yards passing in a regular season game.

The Bengals sold out to stop interior rushes and mostly took away big passing plays from the Ravens. Jackson just made the Bengals pick their poison when it came to choosing what to stop. 

And Jackson made Cincinnati realized that whatever it chose was still poison.

“He was cutting it back, throwing outside and running around,” Bengals linebacker Preston Brown said. “He was just having fun on us, and that’s what you never want to have done.”

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From intelligence to 'work of art' route running, Terry McLaurin displayed it all in Miami

From intelligence to 'work of art' route running, Terry McLaurin displayed it all in Miami

Terry McLaurin's first touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday wasn't just the result of one well-executed play.

Instead, it combined intelligent film study, superb route running and excellent speed, three of the qualities that McLaurin has shown off all season long as he's establishing himself as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate and one of the best picks in the 2019 Draft.

Earlier in the week, the 24-year-old saw Amari Cooper run a similar route versus Miami — one that starts off looking like a crosser before a change of direction turns it into a dash to the corner — and he took note of how the defender tried to undercut it. So, he know if he sold the crosser well, he'd break free once he planted his foot in the ground.

It's one step to put in that work, though. It's a whole other step to actually carry it out on the field. But that's what McLaurin did in Week 6, and it ended up as one absolutely tremendous highlight in an overall impressive afternoon.

No. 17 would go on to find the end zone a second time in the contest, as well as secure an important, long catch late that got the Redskins off of their own goal line. After the win, the team's first in six tries as well as the first of McLaurin's pro career, he was asked if he's surprised by how effective he's been.

"Not really," he said. "I want to be a guy you can come to on third down, the clutch situations, press man. I want to develop into that."

While at the postgame podium, Bill Callahan described the way McLaurin gets open as a "work of art." Case Keenum was just as complimentary.

"He's friendly on the eyes as a QB," Keenum told reporters. "Just the body language he gives in and out of breaks, I know where he's going to be at all times."

In five contests for the Burgundy and Gold, the wideout has 23 catches for 408 yards. He's averaging 17.7 yards a grab and has nabbed five scores. He's beating guys deep, he's beating guys over the middle and he's beating the guys in contested situations.

Yet the trait everyone keeps coming back to, from coaches to teammates to analysts, fans, is his route running. Callahan comparing it to art wasn't a stretch, and Keenum calling him "friendly on the eyes" is deserved. It's top-notch already. 

It's something McLaurin takes a ton of pride in, too.

"I think that's what separates good receivers from great receivers," he said. 

Now, the Redskins' Week 6 victory over the Dolphins was far from flawless. In fact, if it weren't for a dropped ball on a two-point conversion attempt, it very well could've been another loss. 

But while fans of the franchise may not take much comfort in the final score, they should find time to appreciate what McLaurin is doing. 

He's not just an emerging star in the organization, he's an emerging star in the entire sport, and covering his rookie campaign has been a treat so far. Well, for everyone covering him except opposing defenders, of course.

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