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Texas Longhorns

Texas Longhorns

On Tuesday, numerous reports surfaced indicating that the Texas Longhorns will add Auburn Tigers offensive line coach Herb Hand as a co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach.

The expected move both adds some help for offensive coordinator Tim Beck and offensive line coach Derek Warehime and provides a public repudiation of their efforts in 2017 by head coach Tom Herman.

A look back through Hand¡¯s coaching career helps reveal some of the offensive philosophies that he will bring with him to Austin and the impact he can have on the staff.
West Virginia Mountaineers (2001-06)

After serving for two years as a graduate assistant at Clemson, Hand received the first big break of his career ¡ª Rich Rodriguez hired him as the tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator.

During this period, Hand not only started to build his reputation as a strong recruiter, he learned the zone read-based spread offense run by Rodriguez in Morgantown.

Meanwhile, West Virginia experienced a remarkable amount of success, winning the Big East three times, going to five bowl games, and finishing the 2006 season 11-2. Unsurprisingly, it was a prolific offense that made the team so dangerous ¡ª it finished No. 2 nationally in rushing, No. 3 in scoring, and No. 4 in total offense.

At a time when most offenses spread the field to throw the ball, Rodriguez emphasized a run-heavy spread utilizing tempo. From 2002 to 2006, the Mountaineers ran the ball between 69 and 76 percent of the time.

While West Virginia did run some gap-based plays, Rodriguez primarily focused on a zone-based running scheme that provided the foundation for Hand¡¯s area of expertise at his next stop.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2007-09)

A move to Oklahoma helped Hand forge arguably his most important coaching connection ¡ª his relationship with Gus Malzahn. After one successful season as the offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach at Arkansas, Malzahn joined Todd Graham¡¯s staff as the associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Hand joined the staff in a similar capacity, holding the same titles and also coaching the offensive line.

With Malzahn and Hand working together, Tulsa¡¯s offense led the country in 2007 and 2008. Hand was a finalist for recognition as the nation¡¯s top offensive line coach during their second year together.

At Tulsa, Hand helped integrate his philosophy with Malzahn¡¯s scheme, which was a form of sequence football based off of old Wing-T plays.

¡°What I cut my teeth in was under Rich Rodriguez and the tempo stuff,¡± Hand said in 2016. ¡°Of course, Gus was coming from more of a gap base, but still the tempo was the big thing. We were kind of zone based at West Virginia. When we got together, we married that up. It took a little time for us to figure each other out.¡±

When Malzahn departed for Auburn in 2009, Hand served as the lone offensive coordinator, but Graham called the plays as the offense regressed following the departures of its quarterback, leading rusher, and leading receiver.
Vanderbilt Commodores (2010-13)

After Hand joined James Franklin in Nashville, he helped develop two future NFL offensive linemen who paved the way for record-setting running back Zac Stacy.

While Hand didn¡¯t even earn a co-offensive coordinator role at Vanderbilt, he played a key role in helping Franklin mix his pro-style background with Hand¡¯s up-tempo, smash-mouth spread experience. The result was an offense that showcased a lot of Malzahn¡¯s influence ¡ª a small number of base concepts with shifts, motions, and different formations to confuse and out-leverage opposing defenses. The Commodores also used an unbalanced line at times.

By the 2013 season, Hand was calling it a personnel-driven pro-style offense that tried to find mismatches with ¡°non-traditional formations and alignments in traditional formation groups,¡± citing an empty formation using 22 personnel.

Here¡¯s his description of the running game:

We run a power and counter, which are our Gap schemes. We run inside and outside zone plays, which are in our Zone concepts and we run a variety of Pin/Pull sweep concepts, which fall in the G category. With our G schemes, we might pull our play side tackle and guard, our tackle and center or our center and guard depending on the scheme and the defensive front. We also have some auxiliary runs such as our speed options and speed sweeps which are like zone schemes and reverses, draws and traps as well.

With Hand¡¯s help, Franklin landed a big-time promotion and brought his offensive line coach with him.
Penn State Nittany Lions (2014-15)

By the time that Hand followed Franklin to Happy Valley, he¡¯d also earned a title as the run-game coordinator. As he did at Vanderbilt, Hand served in an ancillary role to offensive coordinator John Donovan, who was fired following the 2015 season. One notable element of those lines was that they struggled in pass protection.
Auburn Tigers (2016-17)

Malzahn and Hand reunited on the plains two years ago and though Hand didn¡¯t have any official role beyond offensive line coach, he quickly took on an important role in 2016. As Malzahn gave up play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee in late September, Hand spent his time in the box helping Lashlee.

¡°Herb, for an O-line guy, he¡¯s got kind of a coordinator mindset,¡± Lashlee said. ¡°He¡¯s good at big-picture stuff. There¡¯s a lot of O-line guys that are so locked into the details ¡ª because it¡¯s hard now to coach O-line, five guys and all the details ¡ª and so that¡¯s one of the reasons we put him in the box. He¡¯s been in the box before and so he understands the system, he knows what we¡¯re trying to accomplish, he sees the defense.¡±

In that role, Hand worked with Lashlee, primarily facilitating adjustments between drives based on his high-level view of opposing defenses.

Hand also helped produce three all-SEC offensive linemen from a group that ranked No. 6 nationally in adjusted line yardage as the Tigers finished as a top-30 run offense in S&P+. As a result, he was named a finalist for offensive line coach of the year by FootballScoop.com.

After the season, Lashlee took a paycut in leaving Auburn for the offensive coordinator position at UConn, which he described as wanting to ¡°get out of my comfort zone.¡±

Regardless of whether Lashlee was forced out or left on his own, Malzahn hired Chip Lindsey from Arizona State as his replacement. Lindsey had spent one year with Malzahn previously, but was mostly known as a long-time high school coach with more of an Air Raid influence. During the spring, he reportedly placed more emphasis on run-pass options and deep throws.

Spending a year with Lindsey is one of the more intriguing elements of Hand¡¯s recent resume, as he doesn¡¯t have any other associations with coaches using any strong Air Raid elements.

The 2017 Auburn offensive line struggled giving up sacks, in large part because both starting tackles from the previous season¡¯s team graduated. However, it remained effective run blocking, finishing No. 25 in adjusted line yards and excelling in short-yardage situations and in avoiding negative plays.

As an offensive line coach, Hand is known for using a matrix instead of a depth chart. By cross training each of his offensive linemen at every spot, he can develop an approach to rotations with a higher level of complexity when he has a more experienced group.

¡°You always want to have a contingency plan to have your best five guys on the field,¡± Hand said last year. ¡°It¡¯s almost like from a basketball sense ¡ª you¡¯ve got your starting five and then you¡¯ve got your sixth man, your seventh man. What happens when the sixth man comes in? Who has to adjust? Those aspects of it make it a little bit to manage, but it¡¯s also nice when you have options.¡±

Hand then uses film study of the different combinations in practice to determine how the pieces all fit together as he seeks to always have his five best players on the field.

From a personality standpoint, Hand was known as the outgoing foil for Malzahn¡¯s famously dour personality, who once claimed that he doesn¡¯t understand jokes.

¡°He brings something new to the table,¡± Auburn center Austin Golson said in 2016. ¡°He¡¯s very energetic. He¡¯s funny. He¡¯s a hard worker. You can tell that he loves his job and I really appreciate that. I don¡¯t want anybody coaching me who doesn¡¯t love their job. I¡¯m very excited to play for him.¡±

Hand¡¯s energy and charisma extends to the recruiting trail, where he¡¯s also been known to close the deal as a cook. And he also knows how to use his Twitter feed to showcase that personality and build rapport with recruits and players.

The role that Hand played at Tulsa may be the closet analogue for how he¡¯ll fit at Texas next season ¡ª working alongside Beck in the same manner Hand served as the ¡°right-hand man¡± for Malzahn. In that scenario, wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer could move back down to the field, while current offensive line coach Derek Warehime communicates to that position group, assuming that he stays on the coaching staff.

In particular, Hand could be extremely beneficial to Texas in helping Beck adopt a more sequence-based approach to play calling and finding a base set of concepts dressed up with shifts, motions, and different formations.

And Malzahn was also known for having a number of trick plays at his disposal every game ¡ª given how rarely those plays worked under Beck, being able to consistently execute a trick play once or twice per game could provide the Texas offense with a significant boost.

Herman¡¯s continuously stated emphasis on alignment provides an interesting angle to the Hand hire because the two coaches haven¡¯t worked together. But Hand does have an intriguing history that aligns with what Herman wants to accomplish.

As Beck settles in carrying out Herman¡¯s vision and Hand adds some fresh ideas and perspective, the Longhorns will have a chance to make at least a modest leap offensively next season with better gameplans and more cohesive play calling.

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Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

EUGENE — Sabrina Ionescu scored 26 points and Ruthy Hebard added 20 to lead the No. 8 Oregon Ducks women’s basketball team to a 74-64 victory over No. 18 Arizona State on Sunday night.

Maite Cazorla had 15 points and Satou Sabally scored 10 for the Ducks (17-2, 6-0 Pac-12), who won their ninth consecutive game and snapped a four-game losing streak against the Sun Devils (13-5, 4-2).

Oregon broke open a close game by starting the third quarter on a 19-2 run as Arizona State missed seven of its first eight shots and committed six turnovers in the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second half.

Kianna Ibis had 22 points to lead the Sun Devils. Courtney Ekmark added 15 points and Charnea Johnson-Chapman had 12.

The Ducks threatened their school record for shooting accuracy and finished 31 of 47 (66 percent). ASU was 23 of 55 (43.6 percent).

Oregon made 10 of its first 13 shots and led by 13 points in the second quarter before the Sun Devils closed with a 13-4 run to trail 38-34 at the half.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon holds a one-game lead on unranked Stanford and is up two games on four other teams with its best start ever in the Pac-12. Rivalry week looms with two games against Oregon State for the Ducks, who are 0-6 against the Beavers under Graves.

Arizona State shares third place in the Pac-12 with three other ranked teams and plays four of its next six conference games at home.

UP NEXT

Arizona State: Hosts Utah on Friday.

Oregon: Plays the first game of a home-and-home weekend series at No. 22 Oregon State on Friday night.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeyes

Recruiting never stops, and if you take a day off, you fall behind. Join us every night for a daily recap of Ohio State recruiting news, insight on what¡¯s happening behind the scenes and a glimpse at what¡¯s coming next.
What does offer to Javontae Jean-Baptiste mean for DE recruiting?

Ohio State¡¯s latest offer in the 2018 class went out Tuesday to 4-star defensive end Javontae Jean-Baptiste of Bergen (N.J.) Catholic. I spoke at length with Bergen Catholic coach Nunzio Campanile on Tuesday, an interview you can find here, about the Buckeyes extending an offer to Jean-Baptiste and the defensive end¡¯s plans to officially visit Columbus on Jan. 19.

While Campanile and many college programs view Jean-Baptiste as a hybrid edge rusher who could play outside linebacker, defensive end, or both positions, Ohio State¡¯s offer to the Bergen Catholic senior is at defensive end.

The Buckeyes landed a commitment from 4-star defensive end Tyreke Smith at the Under Armour All-America Game, but missed out on 4-star prospect Jayson Oweh when he committed to Penn State at that same game. After Oweh decided to go elsewhere, Ohio State¡¯s coaches expressed an interest in adding another talent at defensive end.

Prior to the offer to Jean-Baptiste, the primary defensive end target for the Buckeyes had been Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) 4-star prospect Tyler Friday. Friday has taken official visits to Ohio State, Michigan and Alabama. It looks like the Wolverines are the leaders in the clubhouse for Friday, but the Buckeyes are firmly in the mix. Friday plans to take official visits to Penn State and Miami before announcing a decision.

Jean-Baptiste¡¯s offer clearly adds a new wrinkle to Ohio State¡¯s previous focus at defensive end, where Friday was the only remaining offered target in serious communication with the coaching staff. Nothing will move forward between Ohio State and Jean-Baptiste until his official visit next weekend, but it feels like the Buckeyes will be able to get Jean-Baptiste if they choose to add him to the class. Boston College, Virginia Tech and Nebraska are other contenders for Jean-Baptiste and the destinations of his other official visits.

While this offer doesn¡¯t change anything for Ohio State¡¯s interest in Friday, the offer to Jean-Baptiste does seemingly eliminate another defensive end target. In an interview with Panther-Lair¡¯s Chris Peak, Avon (Conn.) Old Farms defensive end Casey Rogers revealed that Ohio State is ¡°looking for one more guy and they said it¡¯s coming down to another kid and I for an offer.¡± Although Rogers has taken an official visit to Ohio State, it looks like this will end the Buckeyes¡¯ pursuit of the Connecticut defensive end and lacrosse star, and he will not receive an offer.
Rasheed Walker schedules official visit, commitment dates

The other big news for Ohio State¡¯s 2018 recruiting class Tuesday came from Army All-American and 4-star offensive tackle Rasheed Walker of Waldorf (Md.) North Point. Walker, ranked as one of the country¡¯s top-100 prospects regardless of position in the 247Sports composite, has been back and forth between Penn State and Ohio State for several months. Ohio State is involved with other offensive tackle prospects, but Walker is arguably their most important target of the second signing period.

Walker announced that he plans to take his long-awaited official visit to Ohio State on Jan. 20. The official visit will be Walker¡¯s first return trip to Ohio State since an unofficial visit to Columbus to see the Buckeyes defeat Penn State in the Horseshoe on Oct. 28. Penn State is widely regarded as the favorite for Walker¡¯s services, but the official visit will be Ohio State¡¯s opportunity to change the momentum.

Following his official visit, Walker will announce a commitment decision on Feb. 7, National Signing Day for the 2018 recruiting class. Penn State and Ohio State are the two primary contenders, but the Maryland native also took an official visit to Virginia Tech on Dec. 15.
Dominiq Penn becoming a familiar face at the Schott

Ohio State recently hosted one of Ohio¡¯s top basketball prospects in 2020 point guard prospect Dominiq Penn of Dublin (Ohio) Coffman. Dominiq is the son of Ohio State director of player development and former All-America guard Scoonie Penn, who played at Ohio State in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons before beginning his pro career.

As a local prospect, legacy recruit, and the son of someone who works in the program, Penn has been heavily predicted to end up at Ohio State. Still, it¡¯s just his sophomore year and the point guard has no interest in rushing the process. He¡¯s been to a number of Ohio State games this season, including the Buckeyes¡¯ thrashing of then-No. 1 Michigan State in the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 7.

¡°The atmosphere was great,¡± Penn told BuckeyeGrove.com recruiting analyst Marc Givler. ¡°I haven¡¯t seen [The Schott] like that in awhile.¡±

Check out more quotes from Penn on his sophomore season and highlights from his performances at the recent Thomas Worthington Holiday Tournament at this link.

Miss a day of the Ohio State recruiting notebook? Don¡¯t fret! You can get all of the previous versions of Dotting the ¡®Eyes here.

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Michigan Wolverines

Michigan Wolverines

It’s the most important position on the field, and it’s the position where Jim Harbaugh made his name.

Quarterback. Michigan’s had eight of them under scholarship during Harbaugh’s three seasons. But apart from Jake Rudock’s strong close to 2015, none of them have been able to break through.

Quarterback development was Harbaugh’s trademark as a coach when he arrived in Ann Arbor. He’d worked with Andrew Luck, helped make Alex Smith a competent NFL starter again and coached Colin Kaepernick all the way to the Super Bowl.

More: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan football and the challenging path ahead

Back in early 2016, Harbaugh was asked if he actually enjoyed the process of working with someone new more than the opportunity to carry something over from year to year.

“You’d love to have the returning player returning (obviously), that’s what you’d prefer,” Harbaugh said at the time. “But it’s always (fun) when a competitive thing is happening.”

More: Michigan football hiring ex-MSU QB Dan Enos as an assistant coach

Entering the fourth season of his tenure, Harbaugh hasn’t found that “returning player” at quarterback. At least not yet. Another competition log goes into the fire and the most important quarterback battle to date is underway.

Quarterbacks

Who¡¯s eligible to return: Brandon Peters (6-foot-5, 216 pounds), redshirt sophomore; Dylan McCaffrey (6-5, 199 pounds), redshirt freshman.

Who¡¯s gone: Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, Alex Malzone.

Who’s coming in: Shea Patterson (6-2, 203 pounds), junior; Joe Milton (6-5, 220 pounds), freshman.; Kevin Doyle (6-4, 210); unsigned freshman

2017 recap: The two high points in Michigan’s quarterback room during the 2017 season should tell the story: John O’Korn’s relief appearance at Purdue and Brandon Peters’ relief appearance at Rutgers.

That’s pretty much it.

U-M’s quarterbacks dealt with a lot this season: Injuries, young receivers, a new position coach and a struggling offensive line. But they also put plenty of struggle on their own shoulders. When Speight went down with an injury in week four, his numbers had regressed from the year before: 54.3 percent completion rate, three touchdowns, two interceptions, 145 yards per game.

O’Korn started hot at Purdue, but never came close to that level again. Peters threw for four touchdowns against zero interceptions against Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland and part of the Wisconsin game. But after a month of prep, he completed 45.5 percent of his throws and finished with two picks in the Outback Bowl.

All three of Michigan’s quarterbacks regressed in 2017.

Peters was, until the final whistle, the lone bright spot. A second-year player seeing real snaps for the first time, U-M’s offense flirted with full functionality only when he was under center in late October and parts of November. It never reached that point in full, but Peters had Michigan leading Wisconsin in the second half before a concussion knocked him out of the game and the following week against Ohio State.

From a skill perspective, he’s the prototype for what Harbaugh’s offense has been through three years. Whether he’s the prototype for what it will be moving forward is a question for another day.
2018 outlook

The wild card is Patterson, a former five-star passer who transferred from Ole Miss in December. Patterson is hoping a claim that Ole Miss misled him and other prospects about the severity of NCAA penalties the program eventually found will allow for eligibility in 2018. He hopes to know something next month.

If Patterson is eligible, Peters’ poor showing in the Outback Bowl certainly left the door open for him to take advantage. But questions, eligibility aside, loom.

Who is going to be coaching quarterbacks in 2018? If Patterson is the guy, what type of offense does this become? Harbaugh’s coaching staff is in flux right now. Patterson, meanwhile, threw for 2,259 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in roughly half an injury-shortened season. He also did it in a no huddle spread offense that’s much simpler than Harbaugh’s system.

“I feel like I can fit into any offense, really,” Patterson told the Free Press last month. “I’d like to think I’m a quick learner, too. I try to pay attention to detail. I think I’ll fit right in.”

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The gauntlet of the Big 12 Conference is no place for the faint of heart or the weary, a realization that hits teams right in the face as games against some of the top-ranked squads in the nation continue to pop up on the schedule.

Case in point is Saturday¡¯s Big 12 tussle between No. 10 Kansas and No. 16 TCU at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. Both teams will be facing a ranked team for the second time in their three conference games with little end in sight to the constant challenges of the conference.

The last time these two teams played was in the quarterfinals of last season¡¯s Big 12 tournament, when the Horned Frogs posted an 85-82 win over top-ranked Kansas, marking TCU¡¯s first win ever against an AP No. 1 opponent.

Then-freshman guard Desmond Bane sank a pair of free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining for the game-winning points.

¡°Winning that game and the way we did it was huge for me and for all of our confidence moving forward,¡± Bane said. ¡°And it was great for our program to be able to do something like that, something special. I feel like we¡¯ve really been able to build off that win.¡±

TCU has defeated Kansas only twice, last season and in 2013 ¡ª the latter when it stunned the fifth-ranked Jayhawks and celebrated as its student body rushed the court.

After the win over Kansas, the Horned Frogs lost to Iowa State in the Big 12 semis, which left them out of the NCAA Tournament. Once invited to the NIT, TCU ran the table, winning five times, including a record-tying 32-point victory over Georgia Tech in the championship game.

That run was parlayed into a 12-0 start this season that ended on Dec. 30 with a 90-89 home loss to now-No. 7 Oklahoma.

The Horned Frogs (13-1, 1-1 in Big 12 play) then went to Waco, Texas, on Tuesday and beat Baylor 81-78 in overtime. TCU had a 12-point, second-half lead in that win, prompting first-year coach Jamie Dixon to lament his team¡¯s ability to put away opponents.

¡°We¡¯re excited about the conference, excited where it is, believe it¡¯s wide open, anybody can win it,¡± Dixon said. ¡°Two games in, I think that feeling is still there. For us, we understand we¡¯ve had two games now against two really good teams and we¡¯ve been up 12, 13 points and we¡¯ve got to find a way to maintain.¡±

TCU has never started 2-1 in the Big 12. Its last such start was in 2010 in the Mountain West.

Kansas (11-3) is coming off its worst home loss with Bill Self as coach, 85-73 to No. 18 Texas Tech on Tuesday. Despite a 1-1 start in league play, the Jayhawks remain the standard in the Big 12 with 13 consecutive outright or shared championships.

Winning a 14th straight title would establish an NCAA Division I record, but Self is adamant that his players stay to the task at hand.

¡°We need to quit talking about winning the league, even though that¡¯s kind of expected around here,¡± Self said Thursday at his weekly media luncheon. ¡°We need to just talk about getting better each week. If you do that, the wins and losses take care of themselves. That¡¯s what our focus is.¡±

All three of the Jayhawks¡¯ losses have come at home. Kansas has not started conference play with two losses in three games since the 2005-06 season, when they eventually won the Big 12 with a 13-3 mark.

¡°We¡¯re going through what 97 percent or 98 percent of all teams in America go through ¡ª ups and downs,¡± Self said. ¡°It really is this: We¡¯re not very good right now, OK? We¡¯re not near as good as what we can be.

¡°We¡¯re trying to develop an identity. You can look really good, then you cannot look really good. If our identity is going to be shooting the basketball, it¡¯s going to be like this. Those are things we¡¯ve got to improve on.¡±

The Jayhawks lead the all-time series 14-2, including a 5-1 advantage in Fort Worth.

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Clemson Tigers

Clemson Tigers

And just like that, our national championship matchup is set. Alabama took the rubber match against Clemson, beating the Tigers by a score of 24-6. The Crimson Tide will face Georgia in an all-SEC title game after the Bulldogs outlasted Oklahoma in double-overtime.

Jalen Hurts threw two touchdowns for the Tide, but the story of the game was the defense, which held Kelly Bryant under four yards per pass attempt.

MORE: FINAL STATS

Check out our play-by-play recap from New Orleans below.

From the AP

The Clemson-Alabama playoff rivalry is back on college football’s main stage.

The Tigers and Crimson Tide will meet in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 in the College Football Playoff’s national semifinals. The previous two meetings between these powerhouse programs were for the national championship ¡ª Alabama won two years ago and Clemson won last year.

This time, the winner will earn the right to play for another title in Atlanta.

CFP rankings: Clemson tops final poll; Alabama edges Ohio State for last spot

“I think it’s only fitting that to have a chance to advance to Atlanta, you’ve got a heavyweight matchup here with Clemson and Alabama,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.

Alabama edged out Ohio State for the final spot in the four-team College Football Playoff field. The Crimson Tide’s reward is a playoff rematch against the defending national champion.

Clemson’s inclusion as the top seed in New Orleans was expected. The Tigers (12-1) were No. 1 in the previous CFP rankings and then routed Miami 38-3 in the ACC title game on Saturday.

The inclusion of Alabama (11-1) was much more contentious. Fourth-seeded Alabama didn’t play for the Southeastern Conference championship after coming short in its division after losing to Auburn in its final game of the regular season, but was impressive until that loss.

“I really do believe that based on the total body of work, that our team really deserved the opportunity to be in,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We’re very pleased and happy.”

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said the “trilogy” between the Tide and Tigers is something to savor.

“They have great athletes over there,” Fitzpatrick said. “Great offense, great defense, great coaching.”

Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 in the last national championship game. The Tigers have made it back to the CFP with a dominant defense and the emergence of junior quarterback Kelly Bryant.

Alabama returns with sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has had another solid season. The defense has been slowed by injuries, especially at linebacker, but expects to be much healthier by the time the Crimson Tide faces Clemson.

TIGERS PLAYING WELL

Clemson has played some of its best football during the final few weeks of the season. The Tigers went on the road and easily beat improved rival South Carolina 34-10 on Nov. 25. Then on Saturday, Clemson left no doubt about who was the best team in the ACC, dominating Miami from start to finish in the 38-3 win. Clemson’s defense held Miami to just 214 total yards.

College football bowls: Full slate of New Year’s Six matchups announced

The Crimson Tide figures to be healthier on defense than it has been since the season opener. Three Alabama linebackers returned from injury against Auburn, but have more time to recover now. Mack Wilson (foot), Terrell Lewis (elbow) and Christian Miller (biceps) all got onto the field for the Tide in the Iron Bowl. Lewis and Miller hadn’t played since the season opener against Florida State.

MORE OFFENSE?

Alabama and Clemson take pride in their defense, but there have been a lot of points scored in the previous two meetings between these two teams. Clemson scored a touchdown in the final seconds last season to beat Alabama 35-31. The Crimson Tide won 45-40 two years ago in a game that featured 40 combined points in the fourth quarter.

TIME TO PREPARE

Alabama and Clemson should certainly be prepared by the time they play on Jan. 1. In the previous playoff meetings between the schools, they had a little more than a week to prepare after winning their semifinal games. This time, Saban and Swinney will have nearly a month to size each other up.

RELATED: Bowl schedule | Final College Football Playoff rankings | Reaction

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

Clemson is the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff, which means it gets to go to the Sugar Bowl instead of flying cross-country to play in the Rose Bowl. It’s a solid locale for Tigers fans, but it’s even better for the Tide. Much of Alabama’s fan base is a short drive from New Orleans, and there will surely be plenty of crimson around Bourbon Street.

This article was written by David Brandt from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]

Joe Boozell has been a college basketball writer for NCAA.com since 2015. His work has also appeared in Bleacher Report, FOXSports.com and NBA.com. Joe¡¯s claim to fame since joining NCAA.com: he¡¯s predicted the correct national championship game twice¡­ and picked the wrong winner both times. Growing up, Joe squared off against both Anthony Davis and Frank Kaminsky in the Chicagoland basketball scene. You can imagine how that went.

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While many were spending Christmas Eve traveling to church or loved ones¡¯ homes, the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers flew down to Miami ahead of the Capital One Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

In its second consecutive New Year¡¯s Six bowl, Wisconsin (12¨C1) will face a Miami Hurricanes (10¨C2) squad in what amounts to a home game for the Hurricanes inside Hard Rock Stadium.

Of course, judging by pictures and video on social media, the Badgers were in good spirits on Sunday while taking the trip to a much warmer climate. As I type this, it is -6 degrees in Madison compared to 73 degrees in Miami.

The team arrived in Florida at Miami International Airport later that day, to their own coach bus with various players like Derrick Tindal, D¡¯Cota Dixon, Alec James, Troy Fumagalli, and others featured on the sides.

On Christmas morning, it appeared the team got some morning lifts in before heading out onto the practice field.

What to read while cleaning up the holiday mess

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel¡¯s Jeff Potrykus highlights Miami quarterback Malik Rosier and the troubles he could spell for Wisconsin¡¯s defense.
Potrykus also spoke with right tackle David Edwards on his All-American honors, and with Florida natives Tindal and Dixon about playing in their home state. The latter article also tells of Dixon¡¯s hope to meet up with his birth mother, someone Potrykus notes he has not seen in a decade.
The Wisconsin State Journal¡¯s Jason Galloway looked at the criticism quarterback Alex Hornibrook has received, with insight from Hornibrook¡¯s mother.
Check out Ben Worgull¡¯s feature on Michael Deiter, with some intriguing perspective from former Wisconsin offensive lineman-turned-NFL Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick.

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Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen

Like a desert sunset awash in soft shades of bluish purple and red, the hues of UCLA¡¯s football team are changing by the moment.

What you see now quickly melds into something different. Eventually it will fade to black, heralding the start of a new dawn.

Players and coaches repeatedly have said it¡¯s the 2017 UCLA Bruins who will face Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl on Tuesday before the Chip Kelly era fully gets underway. But these Bruins are quite unlike the ones who opened the season with so much promise.

Coach Jim Mora and two assistants are gone as a result of the team¡¯s fading fortunes. Seniors Darren Andrews, Matt Dickerson and Nate Starks have suffered season-ending injuries. Quarterback Josh Rosen might have played his final college game, as his availability to play against the Wildcats at Chase Field is uncertain after he suffered a concussion last month against California.

A victory over Kansas State would tie a nice post-Christmas bow on the Mora era while serving as further validation that interim coach Jedd Fisch is ready to become head coach at another major program, even if it requires one more stop as an offensive coordinator.

¡°We¡¯re playing for coach Mora and coach Fisch,¡± Rosen said.

Of course, that is if Rosen can play. He leads the Pac-12 Conference and ranks third nationally with 341.5 passing yards per game, a number that would have been higher had he not sat out the Bruins¡¯ loss to Utah and missed most of two more games with concussions.

Rosen¡¯s injuries have prompted doctors to proceed carefully with a player who could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft should he choose to forgo his senior season. Rosen hopes the last image fans have of his UCLA career isn¡¯t him slamming his helmet to the field while seated on the bench after learning he would not return in the regular-season finale.

¡°It¡¯s just my second year in a row of not finishing the last game at the Rose Bowl for that given year,¡± Rosen said of his reaction, ¡°and that was frustrating but it¡¯s life. You deal with it. I just kind of needed to vent for a split-second and then gather it back together.¡±

A victory over Kansas State would tie a nice post-Christmas bow on the Mora era while serving as further validation that interim coach Jedd Fisch is ready to become head coach at another major program, even if it requires one more stop as an offensive coordinator.

¡°We¡¯re playing for coach Mora and coach Fisch,¡± Rosen said.

Of course, that is if Rosen can play. He leads the Pac-12 Conference and ranks third nationally with 341.5 passing yards per game, a number that would have been higher had he not sat out the Bruins¡¯ loss to Utah and missed most of two more games with concussions.

Rosen¡¯s injuries have prompted doctors to proceed carefully with a player who could be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft should he choose to forgo his senior season. Rosen hopes the last image fans have of his UCLA career isn¡¯t him slamming his helmet to the field while seated on the bench after learning he would not return in the regular-season finale.

¡°It¡¯s just my second year in a row of not finishing the last game at the Rose Bowl for that given year,¡± Rosen said of his reaction, ¡°and that was frustrating but it¡¯s life. You deal with it. I just kind of needed to vent for a split-second and then gather it back together.¡±

Cheap Penn State Nittany Lions Jersey Wholesale From China

Penn State¡¯s Devin Schnupp

Penn State¡¯s Devin Schnupp

Penn State opened its Big Ten season with a rout of Indiana on Sunday.

However, it was the final competition of the year for the Nittany Lions. Now, they take an extended break until hitting the mats again in Chattanooga, Tenn., for the Southern Scuffle.

So, let¡¯s dive into this week¡¯s mailbag to tide you over.

This is still too early to tell for sure, but my initial thought is probably going to irk Penn State fans: No. Ohio State¡¯s current lineup ¡ª assuming no one gets hurt ¡ª should pretty much be the same when the teams face off on Feb. 3 inside Rec Hall with one exception in Nathan Tomasello. The former NCAA champion is currently rehabbing from a lower-body injury but is expected back in the lineup at the beginning of the new year.

Here is what the Buckeyes lineup should look like starting at 125 pounds: Tomasello, Luke Pletcher, Joey McKenna, Ke-Shawn Hayes, Micah Jordan, Te¡¯Shan Campbell, Bo Jordan, Myles Martin, Kollin Moore and Kyle Snyder. I truly believe the match is going to come down to 125 pounds. Yes, I know that will probably be the first match of the dual, but if Tomasello comes out and gets bonus points ¡ª which is likely to happen ¡ª against Devin Schnupp, that could be all the Buckeyes need to win the dual.

Penn State¡¯s ¡°Murderer¡¯s Row¡± will be rather quiet and won¡¯t produce as many bonus-point victories that fans are accustomed to. Here would be my early prediction ¡ª 125: Tomasello by fall; 133: Pletcher edges out Corey Keener; 141: McKenna sneaks past Jered Cortez; 149: Zain Retherford wins by decision; 157: Jason Nolf wins by major decision; 165: Vincenzo Joseph decisions Campbell; 174: Mark Hall squeaks one out over Jordan; 184: Bo Nickal gets the best of Martin in the fourth meeting between the two; 197: Moore tops Anthony Cassar; 285: Snyder takes care of Nick Nevills with a major decision. Final score: OSU 20, PSU 15.
Should the NCAA have an individual tournament and a national dual tournament?

First, I¡¯d like to answer this question with a question ¡ª why not have both? Some teams are better dual teams than they are tournament teams and vice versa. The concept works on the high-school level. The PIAA has dual tournament champions and, in March, the individuals get a chance to wrestle for themselves and their teams at the same time. Once the individual championships are completed, the highest-scoring team is considered the individual tournament team champions. Sure, there are technically two team champs ¡ª the dual-tournament champs and the individual tournament team champs. But no one seems to have a problem with it. The collegiate level is obviously set up much differently than high school, but the idea is still considered the same.

The NCAA can take all of the conference champions ¡ª which would be eight. They can throw in eight more wild card teams, and you have yourself a 16-team dual tournament. The host site for the NCAA individual championships can be the host site for the dual championships. The tournament could last just two days as the winning team would only have to win four duals so that¡¯d be two per day.
Phil Davis and Ed Ruth are having early success in Bellator MMA. Of all the many world-class wrestlers on the PSU wrestling team, who do you think has a chance at Bellator or UFC? I understand Jason Nolf spent a lot of time training in art of jiujitsu . ¡ª @jsk163, Twitter

This is an intriguing question. I can¡¯t even begin to imagine Nolf inside an octagon, throwing punches at someone. One thing is for sure, he would be a pretty entertaining MMA fighter. However, based on what I¡¯ve seen, I¡¯d have to say Anthony Cassar could make a transition to MMA. Whether or not Cassar is into the sport, that might be a question for media day down the road. Cassar is built like a mixed martial arts fighter. He¡¯s got broad shoulders and, if he were to take some boxing classes, I¡¯d bet he¡¯d pack a solid punch. He¡¯s obviously got the world-class wrestling background, so he¡¯d just have to add some jiujitsu to be able to work on submissions.

Cheap Oklahoma Sooners Jersey From China For Sale

Oklahoma Sooners

Oklahoma Sooners

College football¡¯s first early signing period arrives THIS WEDNESDAY and lasts until Friday, Dec. 22. For college football, it represents a big change from the existing February Signing Day because of the accelerated timetable, though the February date is not going away.

Folks have wondered how this will impact the recruiting strategies of different programs across the country, but there seems to be a consensus ¡ª coaches are treating this as the primary signing period. This has a few advantages:

Coaches no longer have to wait until February for the majority of commits to make it official. A school may have a very solid commitment from someone, but that commit often has to be reassured of his decision. This new signing period will allow a program like Oklahoma to spend time and resources on other things.
Coaches can now focus on a much smaller number of recruits leading up to February, which in turn allows them to focus more of their attention on the next class (2019 in this case).
This allows a player who truly does have his mind made up to close his recruiting process. Most of these kids are tired of incessant texts and calls and want to have some certainty about their college destinations shortly after the fall semesters of their senior years.

Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley doesn¡¯t seem to have an issue with the change as a whole, but he has voiced his displeasure with the decision for the signing period to go into effect this season as opposed to next season. Under the new rule, prospects can now start taking official visits in the late spring, but the rule didn¡¯t go into effect until after most of that time period had passed for this current cycle. Here¡¯s what Riley had to say about it during Thursday¡¯s presser:

¡°I know I¡¯ve said it before, but if we had to do it over again I think we wouldn¡¯t have started the early signing period until next season. In hindsight, it didn¡¯t make much sense to do it before these kids could take early visits. I don¡¯t know that it¡¯s hurt the schools as much, but some of these kids are really almost backed into a corner in a way where there¡¯s some pressure on them to sign, but a lot of them haven¡¯t been able to take official visits. Hell, the state championships in Texas will be played after Signing Day. When you haven¡¯t had the opportunity to take those early spring visits like [prospects] will in the future, it¡¯s almost kind of like we put the wrong thing first. We should have done the visits first and then the early Signing Day.¡±

Riley went on to describe some of the differences.

¡°You can feel the sense of urgency. It feels a little strange going into these homes in December and already explaining to them the signing process when you normally do that several weeks down the line. So it definitely feels sped-up ¡ª there¡¯s no doubt about it ¡ª I think for the coaches and for the prospects.¡±

¡°I think after this one happens and, again, once these guys can take the early visits next year it can relieve a bit of that pressure of trying to finish your season, trying to do well in the classroom, trying to take official visits, all of that, when you can spread it out a little bit more, I think it¡¯s gonna be a better system. Doing it the way we did it this year was not a good idea.¡±

In short, the 2018 recruiting cycle is like none we¡¯ve ever seen. This will also be the case in 2019 when kids will actually be able to make earlier official visits. That¡¯s when we¡¯ll truly be able to determine whether or not this experiment is working.

When asked if they were encouraged early commitments to sign during the early period, Riley¡¯s response was simple.

¡°Yep, we have. We think that if guys are committed then they do need to sign.¡±

¡°This group¡¯s been great. We¡¯ve had very, very little resistance. A lot of guys are excited about getting it done.¡±

The vast majority of Oklahoma¡¯s current 2018 commits are indeed expected to sign next week, and the same goes for most programs around the country. However, a select few in each class may not sign early due to a number of factors. SB Nation recruiting guru Bud Elliott recently cited one particular example:

¡°Sometimes, a team will accept a verbal commitment from a player with the understanding that he needs to improve his ACT/SAT score or grades. Verbal commitments are not binding, so a team is under no duty to actually send a letter of intent to sign, even to a verbally committed prospect. If a kid still needs a test score or some grades in core classes, don¡¯t be surprised if a team asks him to wait, because they don¡¯t want to waste a spot on a kid who won¡¯t qualify.¡±

The Football Brainiacs have compiled a list of current OU commits who plan on signing early, so you should check it out. Overall, things seem to look pretty positive on that front. A few prospects took official visits to other schools this weekend ¡ª including Jaquayln Crawford to Arkansas ¡ª but that¡¯s not really out of the ordinary. Prospects often take visits as a courtesy to a recruiter or staff with whom they¡¯ve developed a good bond. Also, who would turn down a free trip?

Then you have the remaining defensive targets such as DaShaun White, Bobby Brown, Abdul-Malik McClain, Brendan Radley-Hiles, Jeremiah Martin, Ayodele Adeoye, Micah Parsons and weekend official visitor Nik Bonitto ¡ª most of whom are expected to sign at their schools of choice this week as opposed to waiting until February. If OU can sign White, McClain and/or Bonitto, and maybe Radley-Hiles before everything is said and done for 2018, this will be a mighty fine class.

As far as coverage is concerned, OU Assistant AD for Strategic Communications Mike Houck has said (or tweeted) that we should expect things to be pretty much the same this year on their end. That¡¯s definitely a good thing.

I¡¯d expect plenty of great graphics and video coverage from OU, as they¡¯ve definitely knocked that kind of stuff out of the park in recent years.

We¡¯ll also definitely be around during the signing period to update y¡¯all on the signings and to give our two cents on the 2018 class.


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