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Auburn catches another lucky break, Ole Miss gets hosed as SEC referees blow crucial call

Once again, Auburn was the beneficiary of a late blown call by SEC officials.

The Tigers edged Ole Miss on Saturday 35-28 thanks in part to a missed fumble on a fourth-quarter kickoff that was instead ruled a touchback.

When watching the replay, it’s clear that Auburn returner Shaun Shivers touched the ball as it bounced by. The Rebels jumped on the ball in the end zone, which should have resulted in a touchdown and given them a 34-27 lead with 5:43 remaining in regulation. But the referees didn’t even review the play.

Auburn went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but on the following drive the Tigers took the lead on a 42-yard TD pass from Bo Nix to Seth Williams with 1:11 left to play.

It’s the second time this season the Tigers (3-2, 3-2 SEC) have benefited from a questionable call.

Two weeks ago against Arkansas, Auburn was trailing when Nix went to spike the ball on third down, but it appeared Nix threw the ball backward. The pass should have been ruled a fumble, but was instead called grounding.

Because there was no “immediate recovery” on the play, the ruling could not be challenged. Auburn went on to win 30-28.

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Rutgers snaps 21-game Big Ten losing streak

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Isaih Pacheco ran for two first-half touchdowns and Rutgers snapped a 21-game Big Ten losing streak Saturday, beating Michigan State 38-27 in coach Greg Schiano’s first game back with the Scarlet Knights.

Michigan State has a new coach too, and Mel Tucker’s debut was forgettable from the start. The Spartans (0-1) turned the ball over seven times — four in the first half — and never led against a Rutgers team that hadn’t won a conference game since Nov. 4, 2017, against Maryland.

The Scarlet Knights scored 14 points total through their first five Big Ten games last year. It took them 8:03 to reach that mark Saturday. Pacheco strolled in from 12 yards out to cap the game’s opening drive, and then Michigan State receiver Jayden Reed fumbled the ball away on his team’s first offensive play.

Rutgers (1-0) didn’t capitalize on that turnover, but the Scarlet Knights quickly forced another. Rocky Lombardi was sacked and fumbled, giving Rutgers the ball at the Michigan State 1. A touchdown run by Johnny Langan made it 14-0.

Reed scored on a 50-yard catch-and-run on fourth down to make it 14-7, but the Spartans weren’t done turning the ball over. An interception in Michigan State territory led to a 24-yard touchdown run by Rutgers quarterback Noah Vedral.

Reed’s second fumble of the half gave the Scarlet Knights the ball again, but Vedral threw an interception. Michigan State’s Shakur Brown ran it back for a touchdown, but that was called back for a penalty, and the Spartans settled for a field goal.

Pacheco scored on a 3-yard run in the final minute of the half, and Rutgers led 28-13 after two quarters. Michigan State lost another fumble near midfield on its first possession of the third.

Rutgers lost two fumbles in its own territory in the third quarter. Lombardi threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Nailor to make it 28-20, but the Spartans didn’t capitalize on the second of those takeaways, getting stopped on fourth down from the Rutgers 21.

The Scarlet Knights drove the other way for a field goal that gave them an 11-point lead. Another Michigan State fumble — a muffed punt with 6:57 left — essentially sealed the game, although the teams traded late touchdowns after that, and Lombardi threw an interception in the final minute.

Schiano is back for a second stint as the Rutgers coach after spending 11 seasons there from 2001 to 2011. Tucker took over Michigan State after Mark Dantonio, the winningest coach in school history, retired this offseason.

Dantonio was on hand for Saturday’s game, but it’s clear his former team has a lot of work to do. Michigan State’s streak of 21 straight wins in home openers came to an end, and that might be the least of the Spartans’ concerns at the moment.

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No. 5 Ohio State starts slow before cruising past Nebraska in Big Ten opener

It had been 301 days since No. Ohio State last played a football game.

Sometimes, it showed in a 52-17 victory over visiting Nebraska in Saturday's belated season-opener at Ohio Stadium.

No, this wasn't the juggernaut some Buckeyes fans might have envisioned when coach Ryan Day said in the spring that he might have a once-in-a-lifetime team.

Ohio State's defense missed tackles and got gashed far more often than it did last season. The Buckeyes' running backs couldn't get untracked for most of the game.

But one part of Ohio State's game didn't look the least bit rusty, and that was more than enough. Justin Fields picked right up from last year when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Ohio State Buckeyes running back Master Teague III scores the touchdown during the first quarter against Nebraska at Ohio Stadium. (Photo: Joseph Maiorana, USA TODAY Sports)

Fields completed 20 of 21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. His only incompletion came on a deep ball to Chris Olave that the receiver couldn't hold onto when he got hit in the end zone. Fields also ran for a 17-yard score.

It was, as expected, a surreal opener. There were more cardboard cutouts – 4,770 according to Ohio State – than spectators, as only players' relatives were permitted to watch. A total of 1,344 people were inside the Horseshoe, the smallest “crowd” in the venerable stadium's 98-year history.

The Ohio State marching band played on the stadium scoreboard but wasn't in the stadium. Nor was Brutus Buckeye, about which Fox broadcaster Gus Johnson jokingly voiced outrage during a halftime visit to the press box.

But at least the Buckeyes played, something they had to fight for after the Big Ten initially canceled the fall season.

After all the waiting to play, the game's start brought back the bitter memories of how last year's season ended. Just as Clemson needed only four plays to go the length of the field for its game-winning touchdown in the College Football Playoff semifinals, Nebraska went 75 yards in the same number of snaps, including a 47-yard run by Luke McCaffrey, to take a 7-0 lead.

Ohio State answered with an 11-play touchdown drive that included a fourth-and-5 conversion to tie it and took the lead on a 42-yard pass from Fields to Garrett Wilson late in the first quarter.

But Nebraska answered with an 11-play, 78-yard drive to tie it with 8:24 left before halftime. At that point, the Huskers had outgained the Buckeyes 181-171.

Ohio State regained the lead on a 34-yard field goal by Blake Haubeil after confusion on a fourth-and-1 play resulted in a penalty.

The Buckeyes' defense then forced a three-and-out to give the offense a chance to score again, and it capitalized. Master Teague scored on a 6-yard carry for his second touchdown to make it 24-14.

Ohio State took the second-half kickoff and drove 75 yards for a score, the last 17 on a run by Fields that included a nifty spin move, and the rout was on. If there was any doubt about that, it ended when cornerback Sevyn Banks recovered a fumble by quarterback Adrian Martinez and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-17.

Field's second touchdown pass came on an acrobatic catch by freshman Jaxon Smith-Njigba in which he contorted his body to get a foot inbounds in the back of the end zone.

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Bills TE Dawson Knox tests positive for COVID-19, placed on reserve list

Buffalo Bills tight end Dawson Knox has tested positive for COVID-19 and is being placed on the reserve/COVID list, the team announced Saturday.

After reviewing contact tracing protocols, the Bills have determined tight ends Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney (currently on PUP list) and practice squad TE Nate Becker as isolated close contacts, and they will join Knox on the reserve/COVID list.

The Bills will travel today and Sunday’s game vs. the Jets will be played as scheduled, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports, per source.

All four Bills TEs placed on the reserve/COVID list on Saturday will miss Sunday’s game. The remaining TEs on the Bills 53-man roster are Tyler Kroft and Reggie Gilliam.

[email protected] roster moves: pic.twitter.com/vqen6XZKsg

In additional roster moves, the Bills have elevated wide receiver Duke Williams, offensive lineman Jordan Devey, linebacker Andre Smithand cornerback Dane Jackson from the practice squad to the active roster. Linebacker Tyrel Dodson (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve.

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Richmond were great but let’s never have another night grand final

These Richmond Tigers will be remembered as a dynasty after securing their third premiership in four years with a stirring 31-point win against Geelong at a historic Gabba night grand final, but the time and location of the game didn’t sit well with fans.

While the AFL world was revelling in the Tigers’ 12.9 (81) to 7.8 (50) win, social media ticked over all day with those lamenting the move.

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Before the game even started, there was talk it might have to be postponed with inclement weather in the lead up and thunder storms expected.

The wild weather didn’t eventuate but the wait for the first bounce proved to be too much for some.

The prime-time shift may benefit the TV audience, but it didn’t sit well with traditionalists.

After the game, very few had been convinced of the merits of an evening decider at the MCG in the future.

7 News Melbourne producer Matt Thompson tweeted “Night Grand Final here to stay” but quickly had SMH Canberra bureau chief Angus Livingstone and sports journalist Mark Gottlieb hitting back.

“It would be a real shame if the community rhythm of Grand Final Day, which the AFL has done really well to build on with the post-GF concert etc, was disrupted because ad revenue might be slightly higher at night,” Livingstone tweeted.

Gottlieb added: “It would be a real shame if community sentiment, which is heavily against a night grand final, was ignored because a couple of people like fireworks and light shows at the footy.”

The dark sky gave a much different look to the 2020 decider.Source:Getty Images

Victorian opposition leader Michael O’Brien joined in the conversation as well.

“Now can we agree that a night Grand Final adds *absolutely nothing* to the footy fan experience?” he tweeted.

“Let’s make a date: 2.30pm Last Saturday in September 2021” before adding “at the MCG”.

The Geelong Advertisers’ chief footy write Lachie Young added: “There will be a time and place for discussions about a night grand final but what I would say is this … the AFL says it is a game for the people. Well, if you polled every club member and got their vote, a day grand final would win in a landslide. Give the fans what they want.”

BREAKING: Entire nation celebrates last Night Grand Final in history. #AFL #AFLGF #aflgrandfinal2020

Solid game, but hopefully a night grand final is a one-off. Much better spectacle as a day grand final. Standard of play much higher #aflgf

The timeslot was a talking point before the game as well with fans desperate for the start of the match, which is usually 2.30pm.

Swans champion Jude Bolton retweeted a post which said “Nothing will ever compare to a 2.30pm bounce down at the MCG in the last Saturday in September”.

Popular comedian Wendy Harmer also criticised the move.

“Feeling for all #AFL followers today. Welcome to #NRL world … not only in the evening but on a SCHOOL NIGHT this year!!” Harmer wrote.

Gary Ablett Jr goes off into the sunset.Source:Getty Images

AFL funnyman Titus O’Reily tweeted: “This is like waking up on Christmas Day and then being told you can’t open your presents until tonight.”

Former footy journo Rohan Connolly added: “Is it sinking in about now a night GF was only ever a good idea in the minds of TV executives scrambling for a few more thousand viewers, and ‘event’ types who don’t give a s**t about the game & will probably talk more about the entertainment? Both can FRO.”

Sports writer Vince Rugari said: “Night AFL grand final seems like a good idea until the actual day arrives and you realise you’ve got to occupy yourself until 7.30pm. Rhythm of a 2.10pm first bounce GF day is unbeatable for house parties/long arvos at the pub into night-time shenanigans. Let’s not do this again.”

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WR Antonio Brown agree to one-year deal

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going all in.

As expected, free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown and the Buccaneers have finalized and agreed to a one-year deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday, per source.

The one-year deal will be slightly above the league minimum but Brown will have a chance to earn more via individual and team incentives, NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports.

Brown arrived in Tampa on Friday night and began the first day of the COVID-19 protocols. If all goes according to plan, Brown will be eligible to play for the Bucs in Week 9 after serving an eight-game suspension handed to him by the league for multiple violations of the league’s personal-conduct policy.

Around the NFL will have more on this story shortly..

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World Series Daily: Will Julio Urias, Dodgers push Rays to brink in Game 4?

After all the oddities of the MLB regular season and postseason, the 2020 World Series pits baseball’s top two teams against each other, which doesn’t happen every year. And while we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the Dodgers playing for the championship, this is the first Fall Classic for the Rays since 2008 and only the second in franchise history.

Here’s what you need to know for Game 4 on Saturday night, including a look at the pitching matchup, predictions, odds, other key numbers and more.

Key links: Viewers guide | Schedule | Playoff Baseball Classic

What’s on tap

World Series Game 4: Tampa Bay Rays (Ryan Yarbrough) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Julio Urias), 8:08 p.m. ET in Arlington, Texas

Heading into the series, I thought Game 4 looked like the game that might be the most important, the game most likely to be the tipping point on who ultimately wins. Before Game 1, it looked like a potential bullpen game for both teams, but since the Dodgers did not have to use Julio Urias in their bullpen effort in Game 2, he’s now ready and rested for a conventional start. The Rays, meanwhile, will hope Yarbrough can keep the first three batters (Mookie Betts-Corey Seager-Justin Turner) under control well enough to help him get through the first three or four innings.

The pitching advantage on paper in the first half of the game goes to the Dodgers. Urias has been outstanding in the postseason, allowing two runs (one earned) over 16 innings, culminating with his nine up, nine down effort to close out Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Long a heralded prospect, Urias debuted for the Dodgers in 2016 at 19 years old, battled some shoulder injuries and has been nursed along slowly the past couple of seasons. He is still just 24 but has already made 16 postseason appearances, so the moment shouldn’t be too big for him. He works off a 94 mph fastball, with an excellent curveball and a changeup he throws to right-handers. Both the fastball and curveball come with a high spin rate, helping Urias induce a lot of soft contact even though his swing-and-miss rate is below average (although it’s been higher in the postseason).

Yarbrough is a soft-tossing lefty who needs his cutter working to get in on the hands of righties. It was a great pitch for him in 2019 (.200/.230/.338 against RHB), but hasn’t been as effective in 2020 (.317/.376/.510). Given the state of the series, Rays skipper Kevin Cash will have to play all his cards in this game, which could mean a quick hook for Yarbrough if he gets into trouble. Cash can’t let the game get out of hand early without getting his top relievers into the game. That shouldn’t be an issue since Friday’s blowout meant Nick Anderson, Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo didn’t pitch.

Two wild cards to watch for: First, the Dodgers are playing a little small ball, with Betts stealing bases and the Austin Barnes sacrifice squeeze bunt in Game 3; and we still don’t know who the Dodgers closer will be in a close game. — David Schoenfield

Running World Series odds

Dodgers 81.7%; Rays 18.3%

Game 4 predictions

Schoenfield: The Tampa Bay offense is still struggling, barely hitting over .200 in the postseason. The Dodgers, meanwhile, continue to do a lot of their damage with two strikes — all five of their runs off Charlie Morton in Game 3 came with two strikes (and two outs). I like the way Urias has been pitching and the Rays’ lineup against lefties has featured Hunter Renfroe and his .156 average hitting cleanup. Maybe he runs into something. I’ll bet against it. We are due for a close game, however. Dodgers 3, Rays 2.

Alden Gonzalez: The Dodgers’ offense looks dialed in — almost as much as their Game 4 starter, Julio Urias, who has allowed one earned run over 16 innings this postseason. The Rays will counter with what amounts to a bullpen game, giving the Dodgers a premium opportunity to take control of this series. They know it, too. Dodgers 9, Rays 3.

Dan Mullen: I’m starting to have serious doubts that we’ll have baseball to watch after this weekend now that the Dodgers have a 2-1 series lead as the pitching just does not set up well for the Rays the next two nights. Having Urias head to the mound in Game 4 isn’t quite like having Clayton Kershaw or Walker Buehler, but it is a clear advantage over the bullpen game the Rays are going to deploy. There’s a very good chance that means we see Kershaw on the mound with a chance to clinch in Game 5. Dodgers 6, Rays 3.

Stat of the day

With his ninth-inning home run in Game 3, Randy Arozarena of the Rays set a new MLB record for total bases in the postseason (52) with his 23rd hit of the postseason — a single-season record for postseason hits for a rookie, but now he’s also just three hits shy of Pablo Sandoval’s all-time mark for any player in any single postseason at 26, set with the Giants in their 2014 title season.

Social media post of the day

Best moment of the MLB playoffs to date

Cody Bellinger managed to one-up … Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers outfielder had held this crown since he robbed Fernando Tatis Jr. of a home run in a thrilling Dodgers-San Diego Padres NL Division Series Game 2; but his NLCS-deciding Game 7 home run to put Los Angeles in the 2020 World Series was just enough to take over the top spot.

The running MLB playoffs MVP

Randy Arozarena has gone from an unknown outfielder to this October’s breakout star. Going into the playoffs, you might have been asking, “Who is this guy?” But the Rays’ trade for him has been a huge factor in their postseason run. His MLB-high eight long balls have made a big impression — tying him with Barry Bonds, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran for the record for most home runs in a postseason. Arozarena also leads all hitters in the postseason with a new MLB record for total bases with 52, and is leading in hits while second overall in runs scored. Also, he has been flashing some leather in the outfield and some sweet celebration dance moves on the field.

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Big Ten football schedule: TV coverage for every Week 8 game as conference returns to play

The Big Ten this week will become the fourth Power 5 conference to return to the football field in 2020.

The conference on Aug. 11 postponed its season till the spring amid the COVID-19 pandemic, later reversing its decision and settling on an Oct. 24 start date. That said, the conference still starts its 2020 campaign several weeks after the respective seasons of the ACC, Big 12 and SEC. It has been a long wait for fans: The last game involving a Big Ten team came on Jan. 2 — a 23-22 loss by Indiana to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl.

That said, the conference’s opening slate of games is a little lacking in national appeal outside, perhaps, the ranked “GameDay” matchup between No. 18 Michigan and No. 21 Minnesota in Minneapolis. There’s also fifth-ranked Ohio State, which should be a strong contender for the College Football Playoff, even with a shortened season. The Buckeyes open the season against Nebraska.

Below is everything you need to watch the full Big Ten slate in Week 8, including time and TV channel for every game:

Big Ten football schedule

Friday, Oct. 23

Saturday, Oct. 24

How to watch, live stream Big Ten games

The Week 8 games involving ranked teams will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network, Fox, Fox Sports 1 and ABC. Live streaming options include WatchESPN, Fox.com or fuboTV, which offers a seven-day free trial.

Big Ten football scores Week 8

Friday, Oct. 23

Saturday, Oct. 24

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Antonio Brown rumors: Tom Brady drives WR’s deal with Buccaneers

The prospect of an elite passing game is so irresistible to NFL teams that the pharmacy store-sized receipt of transgressions wide receiver Antonio Brown has rung up in his career is immaterial to them.

Brown was booted from Pittsburgh, Oakland and New England in a single year as a result of conduct detrimental to his teams and serious off-field allegations. That didn’t stop him from being a hot commodity this week in a whirlwind of negotiations that has reportedly culminated in him signing with the Buccaneers.

The Buccaneers convinced him to visit Florida on Friday after the Seahawks showed interest earlier this week. They’ve now agreed to the framework of a deal that would pair him with Tom Brady.

Brown will be eligible to play after Week 8. He is serving a league suspension for an incident with the driver of a moving truck outside his South Florida home, and he faces separate sexual assault allegations.

Players inferior to Brown have been run out of the NFL for causing far less trouble. What sets the Central Michigan product apart is his on-field production, which is undeniably above what almost any other pass catcher has managed over the past decade.

Brown has amassed more than 11,000 receiving yards in a touch over nine seasons (he played one game in his 10th campaign last year) and has hauled in 75 touchdown catches. If his locker room and off-field incidents hadn’t minimized his playing time since 2018, he would be on pace to easily finish his career in the top 10 in receiving yardage. He might get there anyway.

The Buccaneers are already loaded with premier targets for Brady, who played with Brown briefly last season. But there’s rarely too much when it comes to NFL passing attacks, at least from the perspective of front offices. That’s the case even when the pursuit of a player requires overlooking years of poor behavior.

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Suspicious house fire rocks AFL star

Richmond defender Nick Vlastuin hasn’t enjoyed the greatest pre-Grand Final build up after learning his Torquay property had been lit on fire.

Emergency services were called to the Tigers star’s property on the Victorian coast after it was set ablaze on Friday morning.

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Thankfully in good news for Vlastuin, emergency services workers were able to quickly bring the fire under control with only the front entrance and porch damaged, as reported by AFL.com.

Vlastuin used his time during the AFL’s coronavirus shutdown to return to Torquay to live on and build up his property, before he and his teammates headed to Queensland to join the AFL bubble.

RELATED: Ultimate AFL Grand Final guide

Tradie Vlastuin.Source:Instagram

Vlastuin has been building two townhouses in Torquay during isolation. Picture: Supplied AFLSource:Supplied

In a statement supplied to AFL.com, Victoria Police confirmed they were investigating the suspicious nature of the house fire.

“Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding a suspicious fire which occurred in Torquay early Friday morning,” the statement read.

“Crews quickly brought the blaze under control and only the front entrance and porch were damaged. Police are yet to make any arrests and the investigation is ongoing.”

The Tigers released a statement on Friday afternoon saying thankfully nobody was home when the house was set ablaze.

“The club is aware of a suspicious fire which occurred early Friday morning at a Torquay property owned by Richmond player, Nick Vlastuin and his partner,” the Tigers said in a statement.

“The property suffered minor fire damage to the front entrance, and there were no occupants in the home at the time.”

“As Victoria Police are investigating the matter, the club will make no further comment.”

Vlastuin working on the property.Source:Instagram

Working 9-5.Source:Supplied

Vlastuin has been a key piece of the Tigers’ backline since he was picked up by the team with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 National Draft.

He made his debut in 2013 and has played 160 games so far throughout his career where he’ll look to claim his third premiership victory with his teammates on Saturday night.

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