Dorial Green-Beckham

Recapping National Signing Day

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We have to ask. Did you get what you wanted on National Signing Day?

Yes? No?

Actually, you’ll probably find out in the next two to four years, and whether your school’s class was ranked first, or 50th, it matters not; most of the National Letters of Intent have been faxed in — a prehistoric method — and now it’s up the recruits and coaches to make a successful marriage.

In the meantime, here’s what we learned — or, remembered — from a busy and hectic signing day.

Just remember that everyone’s recruiting classes are like babies. No one’s going to say they have an ugly one.

Alabama wins recruiting title, too 
This year, Alabama came away with the top-rated recruiting class according to two of the three top recruiting sites. Rivals and 247Sports had the Tide ranked No. 1, with Scout placing ‘Bama just behind leader Texas. We could spew a cliché of something along the lines of “the rich just keep getting richer”, but with recruiting and impermissible benefit violations being the sensitive subjects they are, we’ll just say the Tide keep replacing great athletes with more great athletes.

Put it all together like Nick Saban does so well, and there’s no reason to think Alabama won’t be contending for more BCS championships in the foreseeable future.

Anyway, below is how the top sites rate the Top 5 teams at the end of signing day. You can also see the Top 25 rankings for 247Sports.com  HERERivals.com HERE and Scout.com HERE.

To see the sites’ top players: 247Sports.com HERE, Rivals.com HERE and Scout.com HERE.

Wait… i’m noticing a theme here  
As you all are either very proudly or nauseously aware, the SEC has won the last six BCS championships; it’s no coincidence that in the past six signing periods, no fewer than two SEC teams have finished in the Top 10 nationally in recruiting rankings from Rivals.com (incidentally, the lowest number, two, being this year). But no matter how you rank the classes, there’s no denying that the most highly regarded high school athletes are in the south, and most of them choose to stay nearby.

It’s been great for Clemson, Florida State and Miami, too.

Recruiting well without making a splash 
On signing day, the focus tends to drift to a handful of schools who are having big days. Here are some programs who quietly put together solid classes: Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech.

Doing more with less
Sure, USC has spent the last two seasons watching bowl season from home thanks to NCAA sanctions, but the real kick to the groin, scholarship reductions, began this signing class. In all, the Trojans signed just 12 players today (USC had three early enrollees that counted toward the 2011 recruiting class), meaning they have three more scholarships available for next year. Give Lane Kiffin credit, though, for putting together a pretty solid class. And, he seems to have a plan in place over the next few years. It’s going to be a tough road ahead for the Trojans, but if they can be competitive at all in the Pac-12, it would undoubtedly be Kiffin’s best coaching — and recruiting — job in his young career.

Mizzou bends it like Beckham 
Much like conference realignment, the thought of Missouri being the choice for top-ranked athletes is, well, unexpected. But Gary Pinkel reeled in the No. 1 recruit in the country in receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Missouri as a state has produced a few decent athletes in its day, but none in recent memory as big as DGB. Whether it was the “M-I-Z!… D-G-B!” chant at a basketball game, or the school’s move to the SEC, I don’t think anybody at Mizzou cares. They grabbed a recruit who could make an immediate impact.

Stanford sets itself up for life without Luck
Stanford started out quietly having a solid signing day, but by day’s end, had one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Specifically, the Cardinal concentrated on landing three elite offensive lineman and grabbed linebacker Noor Davis out of Florida. Obviously, there will be focus on David Shaw to see how well he does without Andrew Luck, but Stanford’s 2012 class was a resounding reflection of the type of football the Cardinal want to play.

Urban theft 
Perhaps no single team had as dramatic a shift for the better over the past few months in terms of their recruiting class as Ohio State. You can thank Urban Meyer for that. The former Florida coach already plucked some recruits from other Big Ten schools before Wednesday; today, he stole one more from Wisconsin — offensive lineman Kyle Dodson.

Landon Collins signs his LOI without drama
The mother of safety Landon Collins didn’t get her wish today, as Collins officially sent in his signature to Alabama over LSU with, as far as we’re aware, few to zero dishes thrown at any walls. April Justin has publicly voiced her opposition of Collins going to the Tide since his announcement at the All-American Bowl last month and later accused Alabama coach Nick Saban of “stereotyping” her and making decisions for Collins that weren’t in the teenager’s best interest.

In the end, it all went down according to Collins’ plan.

Meanwhile, Josh Harvey-Clemons makes Georgia wait 
Valdosta (Ga.) linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons was one of the first big announcements on signing day, telling ESPNU he would sign with Georgia over Florida and Florida State. By evening, Harvey-Clemons’ signature still hadn’t come through the fax machine. The hold up? Something about an unhappy grandfather and going AWOL. Also, there was a tweet from JHC, but it appeared to be written in Pig Latin … or Egyptian hieroglyphics … or Wingdings. In any case, I think it meant he was still committed to Georgia.

Miles finally makes his move
One of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country, Cyler Miles, had a case of what appeared to be cold feet when he didn’t appear for his signing day ceremony at Mullen (Colo.) High School. Reports were that the No. 35 overall recruit (Rivals) was wavering on his commitment to Washington and considering USC. A few hours later, though, Miles reaffirmed his commitment to the Huskies.

Other unsigned heroes 
We’ve covered a lot of recruits who turned in their letters of intent today, but a few high-profile athletes chose to wait a little longer before making their choice. Among those big names still available to sign are receiver Stefon Diggs, quarterback Jameis Winston and athlete Davonte Neal.

Strangely, signing day was relatively normal
You’d think that when you’re talking about the futures of 17 and 18-year-old kids, there’s bound to be some strange happenings on signing day. Last year, there was the story about the mother forging her son’s signature on a letter of intent, not to mention the kid who made his college decision from a license plate. This year? Nothing so far, not even over-the-top commitment announcements. While personally I’m more thankful for a low-key signing day, it’s obviously far more interesting when a recruit decides to dress three greased pigs in school colors and make the respective head coaches tackle their pig first for that coveted signature.

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.