USC it is: top ’13 QB tabs Trojans over Sooners, Tide, Huskies

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And the quarterback rich get richer, at least on recruiting service paper.

At a press conference held at his Sammamish, Wash., high school Wednesday night, Max Browne, the consensus top quarterback in the Class of 2013, announced that he has given his (non-binding) verbal commitment to USC and will play football for the Trojans beginning next year. Browne had whittled his list down to a final four of the Trojans, Oklahoma, Alabama and home-state Washington in recent weeks, although it was widely reported in the days leading up to the announcement that it was actually a two-horse race between USC and OU.

In the end, Browne said, it was the ability to fulfill a lifelong dream that led to his commitment to USC.

“USC came into the picture several months ago and, ever since then, they really went after me hard,” Browne said according to the Seattle Times. “As a quarterback growing up on the West Coast, at least for me personally, there was always the dream of growing up and being the quarterback for the Trojans.”

Browne took two visits to USC this year, including one this past weekend in which he actually sat in on QB meetings, that appears to have sealed the deal for the Trojans.  He also visited the Sooners in March.

The Skyline High School product is rated as a five-star player by 24/7Sport.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com, and is the top QB — pro-style or dual-threat — according to all three services.  247Sports has him rated as the No. 5 player at any position in the country, while Rivals has him at No. 8.  He’s the first QB to commit to USC’s Class of 2013 and the third verbal overall.

The past two seasons, Browne, who took over as Skyline’s starter following the graduation of former BYU and current Kansas QB Jake Heaps, has thrown for more than 8,200 yards and 95 touchdowns against just 20 interceptions in 840 pass attempts.

If Browne’s verbal holds firm and he signs with the Trojans in February of 2013 — or, as seems likely, Browne follows through with his plans to graduate early from high school and enrolls at USC in January — at least one of USC’s stable of touted QBs will likely transfer out even as starter Matt Barkley will be departing after this season, presumably leaving the job wide open entering next spring. As Max Wittek (No. 3 QB in the country, Class of 2011) and Cody Kessler (No. 2 QB, Class of 2011) are currently engaged in a back-and-forth battle for the backup job behind Barkley this spring, Jesse Scroggins (No. 5 QB, Class of 2010) and his battles with academic issues would’ve been the most likely attrition candidate even before Browne’s official verbal commitment.

Prior to Browne making his decision public, Wittek said he would welcome the competition a prospect like Browne would bring to the position.

I think it’s great,” Wittek said after practice Tuesday. “It’s USC. They’re not going to stop recruiting or looking for the best guys.”

“I’m going to go to USC to compete, try to mix things up,” Browne said at his announcement. “I’ve been to their quarterback meetings and practices and seen firsthand Cody Kessler, Max Wittek and Jesse Scroggins. They’re great quarterbacks. There’s a reason they’re at USC.

While Browne’s likely addition adds to the embarrassing riches Lane Kiffin & Company have procured at the position, it’s reasonable to assume that the Huskies took the biggest hit with Browne’s decision.  Yes, UW has itself accumulated an impressive stable of signal callers under Steve Sarkisian, but to lose an in-state talent like Browne to a Pac-12 rival like USC is a significant one-two punch to UW’s recruiting gut.

The school that was likely “least” impacted by Browne’s decision?  The Tide.  Sure, it would’ve been nice to add a five-star talent under center, but Nick Saban has already proven with Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron that he can win a BcS title or two with a player at the most critical position in football a few doors down — or, in the former’s case, a block or two down — from the No. 1 spot in the recruiting rankings.

Michigan RB declares Wolverines actually beat Ohio State last year

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No. 9 Ohio State heads to No. 24 Michigan on Saturday (noon ET, FOX) looking to protect its 5-game winning streak against That Team Up North. According to Michigan running back Karan Higdon, though, it’s Michigan that’s looking to protect its claim over the scoreboard.

Higdon surely remembers last year’s game well. He was there, after all, carrying three times for five yards. However, it was actually Ohio State who won the game, 30-27 in double overtime. The game was incredibly close, as the score indicates. Michigan would have won if not for a pair of Wilton Speight disasters at the goal line, the first an interception that Malik Hooker returned for a touchdown to give Ohio State a 7-3 lead and the second a goal line fumble that ruined Michigan’s chance to take a 17-7 lead.

As we know, Ohio State fought back to win by this much. How much? Jim Harbaugh shows us below.

Higdon figures to have a much greater impact on this year’s game. He’s the Wolverines leading rusher 874 yards and 10 touchdowns, and ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries in Michigan’s most recent home game, a 33-10 win over Minnesota.

Here’s hoping, for his sake, that he can have an impact on an actual Michigan victory this time around.

Finalists announced for a number of individual awards

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The final week of the regular season is upon us. Heck, some teams still have two games to play between now and bowl season. Still, it’s awards season in college football, and the petty matter of actual games won’t get in the way of the pageantry.

Let’s dive right in.

Bednarik Award (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Biletnikoff Award (best wide receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
David Sills V, West Virginia
James Washington, Oklahoma State

Bronko Nagurski Trophy (best defensive player)
Bradley Chubb, NC State
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josey Jewell, Iowa
Ed Oliver, Houston
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Butkus Award (best linebacker)
Devin Bush, Michigan
Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
Dorian O’Daniel, Clemson
Roquan Smith, Georgia

Davey O’Brien Award (best quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Doak Walker Award (best running back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Josh Jackson, Iowa

John Mackey Award (best tight end)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Geisicki, Penn State

Lou Groza Award (best kicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Dominik Eberle, Utah State
Matt Gay, Utah

Maxwell Award (best overall player)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Bryce Love, Stanford
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Outland Trophy (best interior player)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Ed Oliver, Houston

Ray Guy Award (best punter)
Michael Dickson, Texas
J.K. Scott, Alabama
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

Wuerffel Trophy (best community servant)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State
Courtney Love, Kentucky
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame

Winners will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta, Thursday, Dec. 7 on ESPN.

Kentucky loses TE C.J. Conrad to foot injury

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Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad has been lost for the season to a lisfranc injury in his left foot, head coach Mark Stoops announced Monday. He will undergo surgery to correct the issue on Tuesday.

Though he caught just 16 passes for 286 yards and four touchdowns on the season, Conrad was Kentucky’s leading receiver this season. The junior caught one 17-yard pass in Big Blue’s 41-38 defeat of Louisville last season.

With Conrad, a junior, out, Kentucky will turn to senior Greg Hart and/or sophomore Justin Rigg at tight end, though the Louisville Courier-Journal notes that both have battled injuries of late.

Kentucky will close the season against Louisville in Lexington on Saturday (noon ET, SEC Network) and in a to-be-determined bowl game.

Joey Jones steps down as South Alabama head coach

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There’s never a good time to lose a football game 52-0, but even by that scale it’s an especially bad thing to lose 52-0 in a game you had to win to keep your bowl hopes alive to a team so disgusted by its own season that it fired its head coach a month ago.

That’s what South Alabama did on Saturday in dropping a 52-0 decision to Georgia Southern, giving the Eagles their first win of the season.

And on Monday, South Alabama announced head coach Joey Jones will resign following the Jaguars’ Dec. 2 finale at New Mexico State.

“There comes a time in every program where there is a need for change.  For this program that I love so much, that time is now,” Jones said in a statement.  “One of the proudest days of my professional life was being the named the first head coach at South Alabama.  Today is difficult, but it is the right step for me, my family and for this football program.”

Jones is the only head coach South Alabama has ever known, hired Feb. 15, 2008. He led the Jags for three seasons as an FCS Independent before joining the Sun Belt in 2012, taking the club to bowl games in 2014 and 2016.

The loss Saturday dropped the program to 4-7 this season, ending hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in the program’s short history.

“Joey Jones is the father of our football program.  He, his wife Elise and his entire family put their arms around the program and committed to its establishment and growth,” said AD Dr. Joel Erdmann.  “He has placed South Alabama Football on strong footing, which is something he and his family can be very proud of and we sincerely appreciate.  His good, hard work and commitment will forever be recognized.”