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Shocker: SEC reigns in coaching pay yet again

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Every year for the past few years, USA Today has done an exhaustively outstanding job in compiling the salaries of Div. 1-A head coaches, private institutions notwithstanding, and putting them into a database that’s too compelling not to pour over and dissect.

Every year, the dollar amounts attached to the names of coaches whose schools reside in the SEC and are found in that database trump that of every other conference in the country.  And, in a stunning turn of events, that’s the case for the umpteenth time in a row again this year.

To put an exclamation point on just how far the salaries in the SEC have spiraled into the financial stratosphere, the 11 coaches in that conference — Vanderbilt was not included in the database — will make a combined $34,121,380 in 2011 according to the latest figures published by the paper.  The combined total pay of the 47 coaches in Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and WAC?  $28,848,050.

The lowest-paid coach in the SEC — Kentucky’s Joker Phillips at just over $1.7 million — would be the highest-paid coach in any of those conferences with the exception of the MWC and Conference USA; however, the coach in the former conference — TCU’s Gary Patterson — will be taking his $2.018 million salary this year to the Big 12 in 2012, while the latter’s coach — SMU’s June Jones — and his $1.727 million are likely heading out to the Big East.

USA Today notes that the average salary in 2011 of all 110 coaches included in the latest database is $1.47 million, up 55 percent from the first year they did the survey in 2006.  All told, 64 of those 110 coaches make at least $1 million annually.

A total of $159,701,667 — which doesn’t include bonuses, incidentally — will be disbursed to coaches in 2011; that total is more than the gross domestic product of the Falkland Islands and Kiribati, a country of just over 103,000 residents located in the Pacific which, like Les Miles, is noted for its body percussion.

The average total 2011 pay of SEC coaches is just over $3.1 million, a total that’s obviously tops in the country for any conference.  Not far behind, relatively speaking, is the Big 12 at $2.506 million, followed by the Big Ten ($1.946 million) and ACC ($1.872 million).  Somewhat surprisingly, the Big East ($1.683 million) actually trumps the Pac-12 ($1.594 million); the caveat there is that USC’s Lane Kiffin and his rumored $3-$4 million annual salary, which is not included in this year’s listing, would push the Pac-12 past the Big East.

No coach in the SEC, Big 12 or Big East — again, based on those included in the 2011 database — makes less than seven figures, while just one each in the ACC (North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers, $500,000) and the Big Ten (Purdue’s Danny Hope, $925,000) will make less than a million dollars this year.  At the other end of the spectrum, just six coaches in the five non-automatic qualifying BcS conferences will make more than a million in 2011 — Patterson, Jones, Boise State’s Chris Petersen ($1.525 million), UCF’s George O’Leary ($1.392 million), Houston’s Kevin Sumlin ($1.2 million) and Hawaii’s Greg McMackin ($1.15 million).

Interestingly, five of those six coaches, with McMackin being the lone exception, are at schools that will either move or are rumored to be moving to an automatic qualifying conference in the next year or two.

On the individual front, Mack Brown is the highest-paid coach in the game at $5,193,500.  His average pay of $432,792 per regular season game is more than the annual salary of 22 Div. 1-A coaches.  Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze is the lowest-paid coach in the country at $202,160 for those who are interested.

Brown and Nick Saban ($4.833 million) will make more than the $4.42 million the 12 coaches in the MAC will make combined this year, while Brown, Saban, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($4.075 million), LSU’s Les Miles ($3.856 million), Iowa Kirk Ferentz ($3.785 million), Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino ($3.638 million) and Auburn’s Gene Chizik ($3.5 million) will all make more than the $3,431,653 the nine Sun Belt coaches will make combined.

And, to keep this topical given the events of the past 10 days or so: just four coaches in AQ conferences — Hope, Withers, Colorado’s Jon Embree ($725,000) and Washington State’s Paul Wulff ($600,050) — made less in 2011 than Joe Paterno‘s $1.023 million at Penn State.

No. 3 Clemson punches playoff ticket with ACC championship win over Virginia Tech

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 03:  The Clemson Tigers take the field during the ACC Championship against the Virginia Tech Hokies on December 3, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Clemson can say they punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff with yet another close ACC championship game victory.

The third-ranked Tigers jumped out to a big lead, led throughout and ultimately prevailed over Virginia Tech in a 42-35 win that was a tad closer than the final score indicated.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson continued his stellar play down the stretch this season, throwing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The signal-caller added another two scores on the ground to go with his team-high 85 yards rushing as well on a night where he made some clutch throws down the stretch to keep the team in front of a stingy Bud Foster defense.

Tailback Wayne Gallman also found the end zone in Orlando but was still relatively limited with just 59 yards on 17 carries.

The Hokies did make sure Clemson sweated out things by threatening in the second and third quarters. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 264 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t get any help from Virginia Tech’s normally reliable ground game and threw an interception with 71 seconds left to end a comeback. Evans also led the team in rushing and scored twice while running back Travon McMillian did the same but managed to do so on only 37 yards rushing.

With a second straight ACC title in the bag for Dabo Swinney and company, the only question left for Clemson is where will they stand on Sunday afternoon and what semifinal site they will head to. Alabama appears locked into the No. 1 seed in the Peach Bowl but could the close result against Virginia Tech — combined with Washington’s emphatic win in the Pac-12 title game — force a national title game rematch in Atlanta?

That’s probably not on the minds of the Tigers on Saturday night as they rightfully celebrate yet another league championship and look like a dangerous team to face at the end of the month.

No. 7 Penn State completes comeback for the ages to claim B1G title

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) makes an 18-yard touchdown catch against Wisconsin's T.J. Watt (42) during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
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On Sept. 24, Penn State was 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 49-10 undressing by Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their Big Ten title hopes were left for dead. As we know, they managed to rally and win the Big Ten East.

And then, with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed 28-7 and their chances of actually winning the game were again left for dead.

But the Cardiac Cats rallied. Again. The seventh-ranked Lions closed the game on a 31-3 run to race past No. 6 Wisconsin for a 38-31 Big Ten Championship victory.

Of course, this win means much more than that. At 11-2 on the season, winners of nine in a row and winners of college football’s best conference, the question now becomes whether the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the Lions over 11-1 Ohio State or Pac-12 champion Washington on Sunday.

But first, the comeback.

Penn State simply could not get out of its own way — or get Wisconsin out of its way… or get in Wisconsin’s way, for that matter — over the game’s first 25 minutes. The Badgers opened by forcing two three-and-outs and launching two long touchdown drives to grab a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game. After a McSorley touchdown pass put Penn State on the board, the Nittany Lions allowed an errant snap to be returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

James Franklin elected to go for a fourth-and-short in his own territory on the ensuing possession and was rebuffed. Wisconsin again capitalized on the mistake to grab a 28-7 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. Penn State again failed on a fourth-and-short near midfield on the next possession, but this time the Badgers failed to cash in. And that proved costly.

Because that failure to land the death blow allowed Penn State’s Cardiac Cats persona to awaken.

The Lions’ comeback started when McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 58 seconds left in the half to pull within  a more manageable 28-14 deficit at the break.

After Wisconsin missed a field goal to open the second half, McSorley answered by finding Blacknall for a 70-yard scoring strike on the very next play. Then Penn State tied the game on its next touch as Saquon Barkley punched in a 1-yard score at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Wisconsin re-gained the lead with a 23-yard Andrew Endicott chip shot, but only after Bart Houston missed what would have been a walk-in touchdown to tight end Troy Fumagalli on 2nd-and-8 from the 10-yard line.

Given the opportunity to take the lead, Penn State took full advantage, marching 81 yards in only four plays as Barkley hauled in an 18-yard wheel route from McSorley.

McSorley finished the game hitting 22-of-31 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — against a defense that came in allowing eight touchdowns while swiping 21 interceptions. Compared to Houston’s numbers — 16-of-21 for 174 yards — quarterback play proved to be the difference in the game. McSorley’s play allowed Penn State to win a game in which it was out-rushed 241-51.

Wisconsin punted on its next touch, and Penn State missed its chance to deliver a knockout punch, instead settling for a 24-yard Tyler Davis field goal with 5:14 to play in the game.

Wisconsin would need a touchdown to force overtime, while Penn State would need a stop to complete its 21-point comeback. The Badgers moved to the Penn State 24, but, facing a 4th-and-1, Corey Clement was stuffed for no gain.

Penn State expired the final 58 seconds and secured the largest comeback ever in a Power 5 conference championship game.

Arkansas State, Appalachian State end up as SBC co-champs

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Two of the 10 FBS conferences don’t have championship games to determine a league champion.  The Big 12, which will go to a title game format next season, crowned an undisputed champion earlier today.  The other game-less league, on the other hand, will have more than one official champ.

Arkansas State had the opportunity to potentially win the Sun Belt Conference outright, but lost in Week 13 to drop to 6-1 in conference play.  Appalachian State won the same weekend to finish the season at 7-1 and claim at least a share of league title.

ASU and Troy, both 6-1 entering Week 14, needed a win to claim its share.

Troy failed miserably, falling 28-24 on the road to a Georgia Southern team that entered the game 4-7 overall and 3-4 in the SBC.  ASU, though, passed its final regular season test, putting 20 fourth-quarter points on the scoreboard in getting past Texas State in a 36-14 win in San Marcos.

The Red Wolves have now won five SBC titles the past six years, with three of those (2011, 2012, 2015) being undisputed.  They’re also the first team since Troy was in the midst of a five-year run from 2006-10 to win back-to-back championships.

As for App State, this is the Mountaineers’ first FBS league championship since moving to the SBC from the FCS for the 2014 season.

The three teams at the top of the SBC will play in some combination of the New Orleans/Dollar General/Camellia Bowls.  Arkansas State will be playing in its sixth straight bowl game, while Appalachian State will be in its second in a row in just its third season at this level.  Troy, meanwhile, will be making its first postseason appearance since winning the New Orleans Bowl in 2010.

San Diego State runs past Wyoming for second straight Mountain West title

San Diego State's Donnel Humphrey runs for a touchdown during the first half against Wyoming in an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Laramie, Wyo. (AP Photo/Michael Smith)
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They say revenge is a dish best served cold. San Diego State checked off both boxes on Saturday night.

The Aztecs captured their second straight Mountain West championship and avenged an earlier loss with a 27-24 win over Wyoming in freezing conditions up in Laramie.

The San Diego State ground game was clicking all night long in a game where it was difficult to get much of anything through the air. Star tailback Donnel Pumphrey finished with 110 yards and a touchdown, passing former Texas great Ricky Williams to become the second leading rusher in FBS history late in the third quarter. The senior trails only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne by 108 yards on the all-time list with a chance to top his mark later this month in what will likely be a berth in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Pumphrey’s backup Rashaad Penny wasn’t too shabby either, picking up a team-high 117 yards on the ground and finding the end zone twice. It was a good thing both players were humming in the backfield as quarterback Christian Chapman managed only 85 yards on six completions.

The SDSU defense also came to play in one of their best performances in a while. They picked off Wyoming’s Josh Allen twice, recovered a fumble late in the second half and bottled up the prolific runner Brian Hill to the tune of just 93 yards.

The Cowboys made a run to close the gap to just a field goal in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite get over the hump for their second win in as many weeks over the Aztecs for a first ever Mountain West title.

Instead it was Rocky Long’s San Diego State squad that could lay claim to being the best in the conference this season for the second year in a row.