Notre Dame Football

National championship should excite, but this year’s BCS lineup is a snoozer

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As far as the BCS championship is concerned, viewers are going to get the game they want: Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

You couldn’t pack more hate or intrigue into a single game. In one corner, you have the Tide appearing in its third title game in four years. A win would instantly bring about the term “dynasty” and there simply is no other team that represents the face of SEC dominance in college football like Alabama right now. And the insufferable “S-E-C!” chants? You better believe they’ll be loud and clear if Alabama hoists another crystal football.

In the other corner, you have the Irish. What bass-ackwards, Twilight Zone do we live in where Notre Dame — you know, the irrelevant yet extremely relevant program with its own TV deal and privileged bowl agreement — can be the team to give the SEC its comeuppance?

You can understand why any college football site *ahem* would be giddy about such a match-up for the next four weeks (hint: page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and…).

Or, Jan. 7 will roll around and the game could be a total bust. Nobody in the right mind hopes that it is, but with the rest of the BCS slate looking rather ehhhhhh, the national title can have season-defining qualities.

Oh sure, there are other intriguing storylines. The Fiesta Bowl pits Kansas State and Oregon, two teams that could have met in a nonconference game that wasn’t and at one time last month looked to be on a collision course for the national title. But some other BCS games? Not as much.

Take the Rose Bowl for example. Wisconsin blew the doors off Nebraska in the Big Ten championship and made us all wonder where in the hell that was all season, but the Badgers are still a five-loss team. Even UConn didn’t have five losses when it went to the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago and got stomped by Oklahoma.

#EvenUConn

Speaking of the Sooners, they have to be all kinds of mad that they got bumped from the Sugar Bowl because Northern Illinois made it into the BCS top 16 (No. 15 in fact). Now, Florida will face Louisville in New Orleans and the Huskies will try to upset Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Compelling? Not overly unless you enjoy the possibility of major upsets. For some reason, that’s lost more on college football than it is in, say, college basketball. There were people who hated Boise State once the Broncos started winning consistently on the national stage.

But don’t be mad at NIU for altering the BCS lineup and start spouting off about how the Huskies don’t “deserve” to be in an upper-echelon game. Deserving went flying out the window and smashed into your car on the street years ago. Did Georgia Tech deserve a shot at the Orange Bowl this year after backing into the ACC title game? Did Michigan or Virginia Tech deserve bids to the Sugar Bowl this past year? Did Oklahoma deserve the right to get manhandled by USC while fellow undefeated Auburn sat back and watched following the 2004 season?

The answer is sort of; what ties those cases together is that each team took advantage of what the system provided them. Northern Illinois played it just like everybody else this year. When Vanderbilt coach James Franklin casts a coaches’ poll ballot — those are used in determining the BCS standings — where he ranks undefeated Notre Dame fourth and his own 8-4 Commodores 16th, there shouldn’t be a problem with NIU getting a little love.

The BCS is tragically comical, like a circus clown trying to jump through a hoop of fire on a tricycle with one busted wheel. You know that clown’s not going to make it, and it’s going to be awful when he doesn’t, but the thought of a flaming clown running around with dudes trying to extinguish him is too tempting.

In that spirit, we’ll all still watch the BCS games this year. I’ll watch because my job requires me to keep track of all kinds of football no matter how fugly it is. Remember the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” when Malcolm McDowell‘s character has his eyes pried open for the Ludovico technique? Yeah, like that was last year’s Orange Bowl for me. And you’ll watch because no matter how busted the system is, we’re all hoping that the BCS affords us some good games.

Even if it doesn’t look so good now.

WMU’s Zach Terrell claims prestigious ‘Academic Heisman’ honor

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 02:  Zach Terrell #11 of the Western Michigan Broncos throws a first half pass while playing the Ohio Bobcats  during the MAC Championship on December 2, 2016 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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It’s been one helluva year for the football program in Kalamazoo.

Not only is Western Michigan undefeated at 13-0, the Broncos are on their way to a New Year’s Six bowl as the Group of Six’s representative. Now Tuesday, one of the biggest factors behind that success has been honored for his individual academic accomplishments.

At the 59th annual National Football Foundation Awards Dinner in New York City Tuesday night, the William V. Campbell Trophy was presented to WMU quarterback Zach Terrell. The Campbell Trophy, often referred to as the “Academic Heisman,” recognizes “an individual [who is] the absolute best in the country for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership. ”

Terrell is the first-ever Campbell Trophy winner from WMU.

“Zach and his fellow members of the 2016 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class represent more than just the standout athletic ability seen on the field,” said NFF chairman Archie Manning. “Their academic achievements and their contributions as leaders in the community send a powerful message about the young men who play our sport. They have taken full advantage of the educational opportunities created by college football, and they have created a compelling legacy for others to follow.”

Oklahoma’s Ty Darlington was the 2015 winner of the Campbell Trophy.

Terrell was one of 12 finalists for this year’s award. Below are those dozen players, with their GPAs and majors for good measure:

Chris Beaschler, LB, Dayton, 3.72, Mechanical Engineering
Tim Crawley, WR, San Jose State, 3.78, Business Management
DeVon Edwards, S, Duke, 3.35, Psychology
Brooks Ellis, LB, Arkansas, 3.82, Exercise Science
Carter Hanson, LB, St. John’s (Minn.), 4.00, Business Leadership
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU, 3.45, Finance
Ryan Janvion, S, Wake Forest, 3.53, Business Management
Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina, 3.56, Communications
Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan, 3.86, Actuarial Science
Karter Schult, DL, Northern Iowa, 3.87, Exercise Science
Tyler Sullivan, QB, Delta State (Miss.), 3.68, Biology
Zach Terrell, QB, Western Michigan, 3.66, Finance

Paul Hornung Award goes to Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers

ANN ARBOR, MI - NOVEMBER 28: Jabrill Peppers #5 of the Michigan Wolverines eludes the tackle of Gareon Conley #8 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half at Michigan Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Jabrill Peppers is the most versatile player in college football.  Not surprisingly, an award that rewards versatility will soon be sitting on the Michigan standout’s shelf.

Wednesday morning, the Louisville Sport Commission announced that Peppers has been named as the winner of the 2016 Paul Hornung Award.  The award is handed out annually to the nation’s most versatile college football player.

There were three other finalists for the award: Stanford running back and 2015 Hornung winner Christian McCaffrey, USC defensive back Adoree Jackson and Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook.

“It means a lot to me to win this award,” said Peppers in a statement. “You definitely want to do as much as possible, and you want to do it as well as you can. I think there are a lot of guys who could have won this award, so it’s just a tremendous honor to be the winner and to represent the Paul Hornung Award. I’m just going to keep to trying to get better, keep working on my faults and do whatever I have to do to help my team.”

Peppers, the first Wolverine to claim this honor, played 933 snaps in 12 games this season — 726 on defense, 53 on offense and 154 on special teams. Most impressively, Peppers played those 933 snaps at 15 different positions.

Earlier this week, Peppers was named as one of five Heisman finalists. It’s expected Peppers will leave Michigan early for the NFL, where he’s widely projected to be one of the first 10 players selected in the April draft.

Charlie Strong, Lane Kiffin candidates at USF

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 6: Head coach Charlie Strong of the Texas Longhorns encourages his team in warmups before playing the BYU Cougars on September 6, 2014 at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
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USF appears to have lost its head coach, but there are some big names being bandied about as potential replacements.

Wednesday morning, multiple reports surfaced that Willie Taggart has left as USF’s coach to take the same job at Oregon.  Not long after, potential candidates to replace Taggart at a school in the midst of very fertile recruiting territory.

Two of those have been head coaches at schools that were Power Five programs while they were there — Strong at Texas, where he was just fired earlier this year, and Kiffin at Tennessee and USC. Schiano, one-time head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was the head coach at Rutgers prior to the Scarlet Knights’ move to the Big Ten.

Schiano was also mentioned as a candidate for the Oregon before it went to Taggart.  Kiffin is in play for the Houston job, although that program could be leaning toward Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

Strong, though, might end up being the best option for the Bulls.

Strong served four different stints at the University of Florida totaling 14 years. He has deep and extensive ties to the state both when it comes to coaches and recruiting. While his tenure at Texas has been deemed a failure, the USF job could be the perfect one for both sides, if for nothing more than to help Strong rehab his image while continuing to build upon the foundation laid by Taggart.

Report: QB Shane Morris to leave Michigan as grad transfer

Shane Morris
Associated Press
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With Wilton Speight seemingly holding down the quarterback position for the foreseeable future, Shane Morris has decided his time at Michigan should come to an end. Reportedly.

According to ESPN.com‘s Tom VanHaaren, Morris is planning to pursue a graduate transfer from UM. Should Morris leave the Wolverines in such a manner, he’d be immediately eligible to play at another FBS school in 2017.

He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Morris came to Ann Arbor with significant hype, a four-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country by 247Sports.com. In four years with the program, he started a total of two games.

The first start came at the end of his true freshman season, with an injury to Devin Gardner opening the door for Morris to start the bowl game that year. His second was memorable as well.

Morris shot to the epicenter of what became a national debate over concussion protocols after his apparently concussed self was reinserted into a mid-October game in 2014. The situation brought significant criticism on the football program, but also led to the Big Ten adopting a conference-wide standard for concussion treatment.

In 2015, Morris not only lost out on the starting job to graduate transfer Jake Rudock but also fell behind Speight on the depth chart. Spight then beat him out for the starting job this season.

Both Speight and John O’Korn, who served as the primary backup in 2016, will return for the 2017 season.

During his time at UM, Morris completed 47 of his 92 pass attempts for 434 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions. In mop-up duty this season, he went 4-5 for 45 yards.