June Jones

Predictions 101 — BBVA Compass Bowl

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SMU vs. Pittsburgh
Jan. 7, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
At Birmingham, Ala.

After inheriting a 1-11 team before the 2009 season, June Jones is leading the Mustangs into their third consecutive bowl game.

That’s why Jones’ name is often on the short lists of athletic directors seeking a new football boss. In fact, he was apparently one step away from being signed, sealed and delivered to Arizona State, until a last-minute change of heart by the Sun Devils nixed the deal and sent agent Lee Steinberg into a Twitter tizzy.

None of that helps the mission of beating the Panthers (6-6), who defeated Kentucky, 27-10, in this bowl game last year. In that contest, Pitt players fought hard to honor Dave Wannstedt, who was fired after leading them to a 7-5 regular season and share of the Big East title.

Players are sometimes known to give full and focused efforts when they feel they’ve contributed to their coach being canned. The opposite is true when they feel that their coach has his sights set on greener pastures (or dusty deserts).

And we aren’t just talking about Jones’ near exit. The Panthers will play this game without coach Todd Graham, who bailed for Arizona State, co-offensive coordinator Calvin Magee and two other assistant coaches, who left to join Rich Rodriguez at Arizona.

Even if mental focus and togetherness doesn’t let SMU (7-5) down, its lack of ball security will. The Mustangs rank dead last in the nation in turnover margin with 31 giveaways and just 14 takeaways.

Opening point spread: Pittsburgh by 5 1/2

The pick: Pittsburgh 28-17

Click HERE to get predictions for the remaining bowl games.

Penn State DT Antoine White announces transfer to Albany

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 19:  Chris Laviano #5 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights is pressured by Antoine White #93 of the Penn State Nittany Lions in the second half during the game on September 19, 2015 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Penn State defensive tackle Antoine White will plug gaps and chase passers in a new destination next season. White revealed he will leave Happy Valley to play for Albany in 2017. As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, White would lose a year of eligibility if he left for an FBS school.

White announced the transfer on his Twitter account.

“My past 3 years at Penn State have been filled with so many great experiences as a student-athlete, in school, sports, as well as in life,” White wrote.

“I am forever grateful for all of these and I have built relationships that I know will last a life time.”

White collected 17 tackles with 1.5 sacks as a sophomore this fall. He was a second-team tackle for Penn State’s Big Ten championship squad in 2016 and was expected to assume the same role next season.

Cal hires Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin as offensive coordinator

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 06:  Head coach Beau Baldwin of the Eastern Washington Eagles looks on against the Washington Huskies on September 6, 2014 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Huskies defeated the Eagles 59-52.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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New Cal head coach Justin Wilcox‘s first hire is a big one.

Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin has left his red field of fire to become the offensive coordinator in Berkeley. “This one is right, it’s an incredible opportunity,” Baldwin said, via the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

He leaves Eastern Washington with an 85-32 record, including six FCS playoffs appearances with four trips to the FCS semifinals and a national championship in 2010. Baldwin’s 2016 Eastern Washington team finished 12-2, won the Big Sky championship and reached the FCS semifinals.

Baldwin, of course, isn’t being hired for his head coaching acumen. He’s being brought to Berkeley to move the ball and score points — and on that front Baldwin is one of the best in college football. Eastern Washington finished the season ranked among the top three in FCS in total offense (529.6 yards per game), passing offense (401 yards per game), third down conversions (52.1 percent), completion percentage (67.9), passing efficiency (168.2) and scoring offense (42.4 points per game).

He’ll inherit an offense that finished tied for 54th in yards per play, 22nd in scoring and 51st in passing efficiency running Sonny Dykes‘s Air Raid system.

Baldwin joins a growing group of FCS or Group of 5 coaches leaving head coaching spots to become Power 5 coordinators, following Dan Enos (Central Michigan to Arkansas), Joe Moorhead (Fordham to Penn State) and Pete Lembo (Ball State to Maryland). Baldwin also interviewed for the Nevada head coaching job that ultimately went to Jay Norvell.

Grueling workouts put multiple Oregon players in hospital, per report

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 28:  Head Coach Willie Taggart walks the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Miami Hurricanes on September 28, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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The Willie Taggart era at Oregon is barely a month old, and already the first crisis has arrived.

A report from The Oregonian uncovered that at least three Ducks football players have been sent to the hospital after undergoing grueling workouts administered by new strength coach Irele Oderinde, who followed Taggart from South Florida. Offensive linemen Doug Brenner and Sam Poutasi and tight end Cam McCormick are in “fair condition” at Springfield’s PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend, where they have remained since late last week.

Poutasi has reportedly been diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a soft tissue condition triggered by overwork that can lead to kidney damage.

While those three players remained hospitalized, The Oregonian reports the rest of the team was required to complete the same workouts this week:

The sources said that some players “passed out” and others later complained of discolored urine, which is a common symptom of rhabdomyolysis. After testing, others were found to have highly elevated levels of creatine kinase, an indicator of the syndrome.

“The safety and welfare of all of our student-athletes is paramount in all that we do,” Oregon said in a statement to The Oregonian. “While we cannot comment on the health of our individual students, we have implemented modifications as we transition back into full training to prevent further occurrences.

“We thank our medical staff and trainers for their continued monitoring of the students and we will continue to support our young men as they recover.”

Taggart visited the players in Riverbend before leaving the state to recruit, the paper reported.

Brenner is entering his senior season, while Poutasi and McCormick redshirted last fall.

Phillip Fulmer reportedly a candidate for Tennessee AD job

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 22:  Head coach Phillip Fulmer of the Tennessee Volunteers gives a thumbs up after winning the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Nashville, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Tennessee is still in search of its next athletics director, which has become a point of contention lately — and especially over the past 24 hours.

Alabama hired Greg Byrne away from Arizona without ever letting the job hit the open market, which begs the question, just what the heck are they doing in Knoxville? Outgoing AD Dave Hart has been outgoing since before football season started. Getting outmaneuvered by their rivals to the south — their immensely more successful rivals to the south, at least in the sport that matters in Tennessee — has created turmoil for an athletics department that majors in it.

As an apparent slice of red meet to the fans, the Vols let it be known Monday Phillip Fulmer is a serious candidate for their AD job.

“Fulmer has grown close to Tennessee President Joe DiPietro and a group of influential boosters have been working behind the scenes to help install him as Dave Hart’s replacement, according to people close to the situation,” Wolken writes.

Fulmer has exactly zero athletics director experience, but he is a harken back to the glory days of yonder for the Volunteers. He went 152-52 in 17 seasons with six top-10 finishes, three SEC titles, six SEC East crowns and a national championship in 1998.

In fact, even the “bad” Fulmer seasons — a .531 SEC winning percentage with one top-15 finish and one SEC East championship from 2005-08 — compare favorably with the marks of his three successors. Lane KiffinDerek Dooley and Butch Jones have collectively posted a .349 SEC winning percentage with zero top-15 finishes and zero SEC East championships in the eight seasons since Fulmer’s dumping.

It’s not clear what Fulmer brings to the department beyond a familiar face and a living, breathing link to the glory days, but perhaps those attributes are good enough at Tennessee.