Notre Dame v Oklahoma

Eyeing national respect, Notre Dame gets a key road win at Oklahoma

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Earlier this week, Berry Tramel of the Daily Oklahoman wrote that Notre Dame’s famous “PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY” sign may have originated from former Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson in the late 1940’s. The slogan may (or may not) have been born in Norman, Oklahoma, but Notre Dame will take it, metaphorically, back to South Bend, Indiana, as its own.

When you go on the road and defeat a top-10 team 30-13, you deserve to be called champions.

Notre Dame (No. 5) answered the biggest question facing the team all year: how would the Irish score, especially without George Atkinson III, against Oklahoma (No. 8)? Well, like most things on offense, it starts with the ground game. The Irish ran the ball effectively for 215 yards. And quarterback Everett Golson, who has struggled mightily at times over the past few weeks, had arguably the best game (and undoubtedly the best throw downfield of play-action) of his young career.

Considering how stiff the competition was compared to other games for Notre Dame this season, this is arguably the best and most balanced the Irish offense has looked so far in 2012, and it came together in the biggest game. The final touchdown for Notre Dame was simply window dressing.

When was the last time you could say that about this offense? It hasn’t alwaysbeen pretty for Notre Dame this year, but they’ve won games their way.

Notre Dame’s defense, for which this team is more highly-regarded, played as well as it has all season. The Sooners had six offensive possessions in the second half. One resulted in a score, two in turnovers and four did not extend beyond 30 yards. Though the Irish allowed the first rushing touchdown of the year thanks to Blake Bell, they only allowed 50 yards on the ground before sacks.

We spoke earlier about Alabama (which is rolling over Mississippi State), Oregon (which ran over Colorado) and Kansas State being  the three most dominating teams to date this season. After tonight, it’s tough not to add Notre Dame to that list or to think it wouldn’t have a chance against any of them. Win big games and you’ll be considered big-time. That’s a perception Notre Dame has fought uphill against for the past two decades. Until this team shows they shouldn’t be taken seriously, though, they’ve earned the right to be.

The Irish were supposed to have a ridiculously difficult schedule this year, but Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford haven’t quite panned out to be as fierce as they were projected before the season. Looking ahead, Notre Dame shouldn’t have any trouble with Pitt, Boston College or Wake Forest before ending the year at USC. But if Notre Dame can keep winning — the BCS computers like the Irish right now more than Alabama and Oregon — it will very much be in the discussion for a BCS championship appearance.

Love Notre Dame or hate Notre Dame, college football is better off when the Irish are in the national discussion.

Rice replaces A&M on its 2019 schedule with… Texas

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 12:  Darik Dillard #1 of the Rice Owls breaks free against the Texas Longhorns during the second quarter on September 12, 2015 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
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Texas and Texas A&M can’t seem to get together to renew their rivalry on the football field, but the two programs still find their scheduling paths crossing every now and again.

Texas and Rice announced in separate press releases Thursday afternoon that the two schools have reached an agreement on a new three-game series that will renew the in-state rivalry yet again.  The first game of that series will be played at NRG Stadium in Houston on an undetermined date in 2019. The final two games will be played in Austin during the 2021 and 2023 seasons.

The 2019 game on Rice’s end will replace a previously-scheduled matchup with A&M.  According to Rice, A&M requested a release from that game because of a scheduling conflict.

The Longhorns and Owls have met 94 times previously, the most recent coming just this past season.  Those 94 games represent the most Rice has ever played against a single opponent.

UT owns a 72-21-1 edge in the all-time series.  The Owls only win in the series since 1965 came in October of 1994.

Jake Spavital’s addition to Cal as OC officially announced

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Kenny Hill #7 of the Texas A&M Aggies chats with quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital during the first half of their game against the Mississippi Rebels at Kyle Field on October 11, 2014 in College Station, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Yesterday we noted that Sonny Dykes had likely landed the man that will help direct Cal’s offense in 2016.  Today we get the confirmation.

In the expected press release, Cal confirmed that Jake Spavital has been added to Sonny Dykes‘ staff as offensive coordinator.  Additionally, Spavital will coach a Golden Bears quarterbacks room that will be without leading passer Jared Goff for the first time since the 2012 season.

Spavital replaces Tony Franklin, who abruptly left the program last month to take the same job at Middle Tennessee.

“Jake is one of the brightest young coaches in college football and he is a tremendous addition to our coaching staff,” Dykes said. “We were looking for someone to join our coaching family that shares our vision and has a similar offensive philosophy to what we have used to produce some of the nation’s top offenses for nearly two decades. Jake has gained a tremendous amount of experience by working with some of the top coaches in the game, while he has tutored some of the best quarterbacks in college football history. Both will pay huge dividends for us.”

Spavital had spent the past three seasons at Texas A&M, first as co-offensive coordinator in 2013 and then as coordinator in 2014 and 2015. He also coached quarterbacks all three seasons.

In early January of this year, it was announced that the two parties were “mutually parting ways.”

Vols (finally) receive signed NLI from No. 1 JUCO recruit Jonathan Kongbo

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For the Tennessee faithful in the audience, it appears you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

On National Signing Day eight days ago, UT received a commitment from Jonathan Kongbo, one of the top junior college prospects in this year’s recruiting class. While Kongbo had committed to the Vols, he hadn’t yet sent the university a signed National Letter of Intent binding him to the football program; that meant other programs could continue to pursue the highly sought after defensive end.

Any ongoing pursuit from rival schools has unofficially come to an end, however, as Wes Rucker of 247Sports.com, citing a source close to the player’s recruitment, is reporting that Kongbo has indeed sent his signed NLI to the university. The delay reportedly involved Kongbo’s father.

Kongbo had signed the letter, but his father had not. Tennessee was able to announce him as a signee because he had signed his financial aid agreement.

Kongbo told SEC Country earlier this week that his father was out of town and he was waiting for him to return to sign and send the letter.

Rivals.com rated Kongbo as a five-star prospect coming out of Arizona Western Community College in Yuma. Not only that, but both Rivals and 247Sports’ composite rankings had the lineman rated as the No. 1 JUCO prospect in the country.

In addition to UT, Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss and USC were finalists for the 6-6, 260-pound end.

Barry J. Sanders confirms he’s moving from Stanford to Okla. St. as grad transfer

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 28:  Running back Barry Sanders #26 of the Stanford Cardinal rushes against the Washington State Cougars on September 28, 2013 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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A move that has been two months in the making has been confirmed by one of the principles involved.

In an interview with The Oklahoman, Barry J. Sanders confirmed that he will be transferring into the Oklahoma State football program and playing his final season of college football with the Cowboys.  Sanders will graduate from Stanford this summer; as such, he will be eligible to play immediately for OSU in 2016 after he arrives this June.

In early January, Sanders confirmed his intention to transfer from the Cardinal after receiving a release from his scholarship.  That confirmation came a month or so after speculation began growing that Sanders, the son of Heisman-winning OSU legend Barry Sanders, was considering a move to his father’s alma mater, talk that prompted Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy to address the issue.

As the younger Sanders will be following in some rather sizable Stillwater shoes, he discussed the move with his father before deciding to become the second Barry Sanders to have his name on an OSU uniform.

“His message to me was to keep an open mind,” Sanders told the newspaper. “I think that he would have wanted me to look at more schools. He definitely didn’t want me to make a decision without considering other options. What I told him was that this was something I’ve been thinking about for some time. I just knew this was the right decision and the right fit for a variety of different reasons.

“So when I kind of explained my reasons behind it, he was pretty comfortable with it and he’s just as excited as I am.”

Sanders was a four-star member of the Cardinal’s 2012 recruiting class, rated as the No. 9 running back in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma. He chose Stanford over, among others, Alabama and the Big 12 OSU.

The last three seasons, Sanders has rushed for 672 yards (5.8 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. He’s also caught 12 passes for 89 yards and averaged 9.5 yards on 10 punt returns.