Sparty prevents Big Ten from going 0-for-January in early bowl lineup

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Apologies for getting this post up a little late. We decided it would be easier to wrap today’s early games into one recap since there was a common theme — the Big Ten/SEC matchup  — but as I’m sure many of you saw, Michigan State and Georgia got selfish and went into overtime (aka “derp mode”).

Speaking of which, let’s get to the Outback Bowl first.

No. 12 Michigan State rallied from a 16-0 halftime deficit to defeat No. 18 Georgia in three overtimes by a final score of 33-30. The Big Ten can thank Mark Dantonio and crew for making sure the Big Ten didn’t go winless on New Year’s Day bowls (yes, we know it’s technically Jan. 2, but you get what we’re saying) for the second straight year.

Or, maybe they should thank Georgia coach Mark Richt, who decided to go conservative and take a kneel down to give Blair Walsh a shot at a 42-yard game-winning field goal in the first overtime.

It didn’t work out.

Walsh missed, and after three more field goals were swapped, Walsh had a 47-yard attempt blocked.

The Big Ten finally won a New Year’s Day game and can now smugly play THIS VIDEO of Kirk Cousins preaching the virtues of student-athlete’s responsibility with at least some sense of accomplishment.

The rest of the early games, though? Ehhh…..

No. 10 South Carolina appeared to have defeated No. 21 Nebraska just before halftime when receiver Alshon Jeffery reeled in a Hail Mary jump ball for a touchdown. The Cornhuskers didn’t score at all after the first quarter and lost 30-13. To add insult to injury, Jeffery was awarded the MVP of the game even after he was ejected for fighting with Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard.

It was just that kind of game.

Florida was able to hang on to beat Ohio State in the Gator Bowl 24-17. Neither offense was able to do too much — sound familiar? It’s pretty much been the story for both teams all year — but the Gators did avoid their first losing seasons since 1979. Ohio State, I’m sure, is ready to put 2011 behind them and get started with the Urban Meyer era ASAP.

And speaking of moving on, No. 24 Penn State is ready for a new era after getting knocked around by No. 20 Houston in the TicketCity Bowl 30-14. With Rob Bolden being asked to lead the Nittany Lions offense by himself, Penn State struggled early and couldn’t recover.

Nor could they contain Case Keenum, who racked up 532 yards through the air in his final game with UH.

One angle of Penn State’s game today is that the Nittany Lions are still looking for a head coach to replace Joe Paterno. Interim coach Tom Bradley has interviewed for the job, although we have no reason to believe he stands a chance at getting it.

Yes, it was a rough day for the Big Ten, which is currently keeping pace with its 39.4 winning percentage in bowl games since 2000. Wisconsin will have a chance to turn around the Big Ten’s fortunes at least a little bit tonight if they can get a Rose Bowl win over Oregon, but it’ll be the beginning of 2013 before the conference gets another chance to perform better.

NC State board approves new deal for Dave Doeren

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In late November, after rejecting overtures from Tennessee in order to remain at North Carolina State, Dave Doeren agreed to a new contract with the university, pending the board rubber-stamping the agreement. This past week, that rubber met the stamp.

NC State confirmed that, on Thursday, the system’s Board of Trustees formally approved the new five-year deal for Doeren. The head coach’s new contract will now keep him with the Wolfpack through Dec. 31, 2022.

“We are on an exciting upward trajectory in football under the leadership of Coach Doeren,” said NC State athletic director Debbie Yow said in a statement. “He has assembled a terrifically talented coaching staff, as well, and that continuity and stability has been important to our current student-athletes and recruits.

“We are pleased that Dave will continue to lead NC State football, playing in one of the most challenging divisions in college football, the Atlantic Division of the ACC.”

In five seasons with the Wolfpack, the 46-year-old Doeren has compiled a 34-30 record, including a 15-25 mark in ACC play. The 2017 season was his best of the five, with a 9-4 overall mark that saw NC State finish in second place in the Atlantic after divisional finishes of seventh, fifth, fourth and tied-fourth the first four.

Under Doeren, the Wolfpack has played in a bowl game each of the last four seasons, posting a 3-1 mark in the postseason.

Nebraska clinches spring game attendance crown, Georgia pushes past Alabama

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Georgia got its revenge on Alabama on Saturday, I guess. Months after letting a lead slip away in the national championship game, Georgia wiggled past Alabama in the spring game attendance standings on Saturday but the Dawgs still had to settle for second place overall. A record crowd at Nebraska led to the Cornhusker faithful having the highest attendance for a spring game this season.

Nebraska set a school record on Saturday with 86,818 fans attending the spring game in Lincoln, the first under new head coach Scott Frost. It was the first time Nebraska recorded a crowd over 80,000 during the past five years. Nebraska surged to the top of the Big Ten spring attendance standings as well, and stayed comfortably ahead after Penn State recorded an estimated 71,000 fans at its spring game on Saturday. Ohio State had led the Big Ten the previous three years but stadium renovations limited Ohio State to 79,000 available seats this year at Ohio Stadium, and weather and schedule adjustments to the spring game resulted in a crowd of 47,803 for Ohio State’s spring game.

The SEC once again dominated spring game attendance numbers this year. With LSU and Mississippi State numbers still pending, the SEC has five schools in the top 10 in spring game attendance as of today; Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, and Texas A&M. As a conference, the SEC eclipsed the 400,000-fan mark for the fourth time in the last five years. Although the Big Ten is typically the second best conference in cumulative spring game attendance, the conference’s number took a big dip this season thanks to weather issues across the conference. Still, the number pulled in by Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State helped keep the Big Ten in second place ahead of the ACC.

Keep in mind spring game attendance is treated differently by every school, and the numbers often include estimates so the accuracy can be questioned. Even though there are still a handful of spring games left, none will rival the numbers put up today.

The updated top 10 is listed below, and a full database of spring game attendance can be found here (complete with conference breakdowns and a five-year record of spring game attendance figures by school).

2018 Spring Game Attendance Top 10

  1. Nebraska – 86,818
  2. Georgia – 82,184
  3. Alabama – 74,732
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Tennessee – 65,098
  6. Florida State – 60,934
  7. Clemson – 55,000
  8. Florida – 53,015
  9. Oklahoma – 52,102
  10. Texas A&M – 48,129

Jeremy Pruitt felt some Tennessee players ‘flat out quit’ in spring game

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New Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruit has a message to his players and Tennessee fans. If you are going to enter Neyland Stadium, you better be prepared to work.

Following Tennessee’s spring game in Knoxville, Pruitt reflected on his first spring game as head coach with the media and he was not about to let anyone off the hook for a mediocre performance in the spring game. One thing you never want to hear from a head coach is that some of his players seemingly quit. That was the case for Pruitt today, without naming any specific players.

Even fans received some gripes from the new head coach.

Tennessee estimated a total of 65,098 fans came out to watch the Tennessee spring game, which is an impressive total and right around the average Tennessee typically draws for the spring game. But the crowd buzz must not have impressed Pruitt, who could be setting the tone for the fans in the fall in hopes they turn things up a bit once the games actually matter.

The same message is now being sent to the entire team. Pruitt has a high standard in mind, which is to be expected after being an assistant at Alabama. Was Pruitt truly this displeased with his team’s effort in the spring game? Or was he simply trying to play things down in order to let his players know there will be no room for poor efforts?

Jalen Hurts speculation about to run wild after shaky spring game at Alabama

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If Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was looking to build a case for taking the starting job for the Crimson Tide in 2018, he may have to rely on more than his performance in the spring game. Hurts turned in a sub-par performance in Alabama’s spring game on Saturday afternoon, leaving the door wide open for some speculation about his future as Alabama’s spring comes to a close.

Hurts completed 19 of his 37 pass attempts for 195 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He also was sacked seven times. With Tua Tagovailoa out of action due to injury, Hurts was outperformed by redshirt freshman Mac Jones, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jones was also intercepted once and was sacked six times. Of the two quarterbacks, Jones had the more inspiring performance.

Rumors speculating Hurts may end up looking to transfer will only continue to ignore following this spring, especially with Tagovailoa going into the offseason as the new hero in town after guiding Alabama back in the national championship game. It should be worth noting, however, a transfer for Hurts is not guaranteed to happen. That won’t stop fans and media from figuring out what will be next for Hurts.

Hurts’ dad recently suggested his son would be college football’s biggest free agent on the transfer market if he ended up losing the quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. That may be a slight exaggeration, but there is no question Hurts would have plenty of potential and skill to offer any program he would potentially move to if he decides to leave Alabama. Alabama head coach Nick Saban tried to cool the tension by suggesting there is no reason to be concerned about the whole situation.

But this is Alabama we’re talking about. The Hurts watch is now in full force in Tuscaloosa, whether Saban likes it or not.