Allstate Sugar Bowl - Michigan v Virginia Tech

Michigan gets some luck against Va Tech in ugly Sugar Bowl

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It’d been a few years since we saw Michigan in familiar territory — playing in a BCS game, that is. Not only did the No. 13 Wolverines finally get back to one of college football’s elite postseason games for the first time in five years, but first-year coach Brady Hoke managed to pull out a Sugar Bowl win against No. 17 Virginia Tech t0o, 23-20 in overtime.

It’s just how Michigan got the W that remains a mind-boggling mystery.

The X factor in any Michigan game, quarterback Denard Robinson, struggled again throwing the  ball — no surprise there with a 9-for-21 performance — but the junior couldn’t get going on the ground, racking up just 13 yards on as many carries. Michigan’s offense gained only 56 yards on the ground and 184 total yards.

It’s not like they crushed Virginia Tech in the turnover battle (just +1, although they managed points off turnovers) or played amazing defense (they gave up nearly double the amount of total yards and allowed some crucial third down conversions).

But Michigan did have one distinct advantage VT, which falls to 11-3, did not: luck. Things just went U-M’s way tonight.

Sometimes that happens without much of a reason at all.

Consider the fact that the Wolverines didn’t do anything offensively for about 50 minutes in regulation. But a pair of outstanding catches by receiver Junior Hemingway despite some bad throws by Robinson gave Michigan 14 quick points. Honestly, Robinson could have ended tonight’s game with 4 interceptions.

Add in a Va Tech fumble on a kickoff… which led to a fake field goal pass batted around in the air before it was caught by a U-M lineman… which led to another field goal, as well as a fake punt by the Hokies that went horribly wrong.

Or, how about touchdown pass from Logan Thomas to receiver Danny Coale  in the first overtime that was overturned. The ball may have moved when it hit the ground, but indisputable evidence? It was close*. Then, VT’s third-string kicker, Justin Myer, who had been 4-for-4 tonight, missed a fifth field goal that was nothing more than a long chip shot.

(*note: I thought the ball moved, but that’s just me)

Michigan would run three plays on its ensuing overtime possession and kicked a game-winning 37-yard field goal.

BAM. Michigan: Sugar Bowl champs. Just like that.

Frank Beamer looked stunned. I think his expression echoed what all of us were feeling.

But however lucky or… whatever it was that Michigan was tonight… you have to give credit to Hoke for what he’s done in his first year. Wins over Notre Dame, Ohio State and now a BCS victory and 11-2 record? Not much to complain about there. The Wolverines will likely finish the season with a Top 10 ranking and could be a preseason favorite to compete for a Big Ten title in 2012.

If nothing else, it’s just good to have the Maize and Blue competing at a high level again. Whether you’re a fan of ’em or not, college football is better when Michigan is relevant.

Quite on the contrary, the ACC slips further into irrelevancy with tonight’s loss, as the conference is just 2-12 in BCS bowls since the system was created in the late 1990’s.

We can’t wait until the BCS decides to do away with the automatic qualifier status.

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Washington State coach Mike Leach fires a shot at the SEC

EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 19: Head coach Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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Washington State coach Mike Leach is known across the country as one of college football’s most interesting characters, rambling on from time-to-time about everything from pirates to the history of Geronimo. The latest subject the quirky head coach has turned his sights on? The big ol’ SEC.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger spoke to Leach recently as part of a profile on new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and let’s just say the Air Raid guru of the Palouse didn’t hold back when discussing the state of offenses in the league widely considered to be the best in the sport.

“I’ve got bad news for all these levels people,” Leach said. “Your level isn’t special, your conference isn’t special. All this different level this, different level that. That’s crazy.

 

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves  and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

Leach, who coached in the league at Kentucky, also added some other, more colorful language to describe his impression of the SEC and the offenses teams run. While he did play at Auburn with the Cougars a few years ago, he clearly hasn’t kept up with the way things are trending down south as even pro-style stalwarts like Alabama and Arkansas are using more and more tempo and spread principles on a weekly basis.

Either way, let’s hope the Washington State athletic director is already making calls to schedule an SEC opponent in the coming years. If nothing else, any future appearance by Leach on the Paul Finebaum Show should be must-see entertainment.

Willie Taggart completes Oregon coaching staff with familiar face from USF

TAMPA, FL - NOVEMBER 26: South Florida Bulls head coach Willie Taggart during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)
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It probably took a little longer than most to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, but Willie Taggart has completed his coaching staff at Oregon and the latest addition is a familiar face.

The school announced Thursday afternoon that Raymond Woodie would be taking over as the Ducks’ new special teams coordinator, having previously spent the past four seasons at USF with Taggart and three more before that together at Western Kentucky.

Woodie most recently served as the Bulls’ defensive coordinator this past season but has been a linebackers coach dating back to 2012. He is regarded by many to be a quality recruiter with good ties to the state of Florida in particular and has also coached the defensive line. While his title makes him responsible for the third phase of the game for Oregon, he figures to also help out new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt in some fashion as well.

The announcement is a bit of positive news for Taggart and the Ducks this week after a considerable bit of bad press for the program stemming from the revelation that multiple Oregon players wound up in the hospital following offseason workouts. New strength coach Irele Oderinde (who also came over from USF) was eventually suspended for one month without pay by the school as a result..

Despite Auburn interest, Texas A&M OC Noel Mazzone staying put in College Station

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 14:  The Texas A&M Aggies offense huddles against the Missouri Tigers at Kyle Field on October 14, 2006 in College Station, Texas. Texas A&M won 25-19. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn’s quest to find a new offensive coordinator has zigged and zagged in the past few days since the surprising departure of Rhett Lashlee to UConn. One place it will not be going however, is to a fellow SEC West school.

Brent Zwerneman of the Houston Chronicle reports that despite some interest in Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, the Aggies’ coach is staying put in College Station.

Mazzone arrived at A&M prior to this past season from UCLA and found early success with the Aggies and transfer quarterback Trevor Knight before a late slide in 2016. Travis Haney of 247Sports reported earlier Thursday that he could be considered the leader in the search to replace Lashlee, but it appears that will not be the case.

The longtime coaching veteran’s name being linked to Auburn isn’t too surprising considering he was the OC there from 1999-2001 but Mazzone’s hefty salary and likely high buyout figure provided some big obstacles if he wanted to reunite with the school.

Instead, it’s on to the next one for Malzahn and company.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan coaches ride go-karts with five-star recruit in Georgia

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts during the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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National Signing Day is just around the corner and that means a flurry of in-home visits by coaches across the country trying to lock up the next class of impact players for their program.

We’ve seen plenty of unique attempts by coaches to impress prospects over the years as a result, from often used cookie cakes to sleepovers and limo rides. When it comes to this subject though, few have been as creative as Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. This week, he certainly cemented that reputation.

According to the Detroit News, Harbaugh and several Wolverines coaches took an in-home visit with five-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon out of Leesburg, Georgia and went bowling with the recruit’s family before finally racing go-karts together.

And even better, there’s video via ESPN:

Solomon is also strongly considering Alabama and Georgia in addition to Michigan, but something says neither Nick Saban or Kirby Smart will be heading to the race track with the big defensive tackle on their visit. You have to love recruiting either way.