Lane Kiffin picks USC’s starting quarterback

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USC coach Lane Kiffin has finally picked a starting quarterback for his team.

It’s just that we won’t actually know who he is until next Saturday, when the Trojans host Washington State in their home opener.

“You guys will see on Saturday who he is,” said Kiffin on his Sunday night media conference call.

But we think we know right now who it’s going to be.

To recap, Cody Kessler and Max Wittek — both redshirt sophomores — were listed as USC’s co-starters headed into the Hawaii game. Kessler took the first snap and played the entire first half and the first series of the third quarter. He finished 10 of 19 for just 95 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Wittek took over from Kessler and ended up 5 of 10 for 77 yards. USC’s offense put up just 364 yards overall in a sluggish 30-13 win.

Close observers of USC have noted that the playcalling for Kessler and Wittek against Hawaii was markedly different, particularly in the passing game. Here are the passing charts* for each quarterback versus the Rainbow Warriors:

CodyKesslerPassingChartvHawaii2013_zpsd483a95f

MaxWittekPassingChartvHawaii2013_zps7f31ec09

As you can see, most of Kessler’s throws were safe throws to the flats. Only three passes went longer than 10 yards. Meanwhile, most of Wittek’s pass attempts were over 10 yards.

These charts probably betray Kiffin’s confidence in Wittek’s markedly stronger arm and, if we had to venture a guess, it tips his hand on which quarterback he plans on starting next Saturday. After all, a pro style system usually demands a pro style arm.

It wouldn’t be Wittek’s first start, though. He started the final two games of last season after Matt Barkley got hurt against UCLA. The results? Decidedly mixed. But Kiffin needs to go with the quarterback who he feels best fits his system if he is actually going to allow that quarterback to throw the ball downfield.

For now, all those signs point to that quarterback being Wittek.

* — Thanks to USC fan Chase Vergari for sending me these charts.

Reports: Paul Haynes out as head coach at Kent State

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And another one bites the dust.  Reportedly.

FootballScoop.com was the first to report Wednesday morning that Paul Haynes has been let go as the head football coach at Kent State.  The Associated Press subsequently confirmed the initial report, noting that the Golden Flash players were informed of the move earlier today.

The not-yet-official move to part ways with Haynes is far from surprising as the former Ohio State and Arkansas assistant is just 14-45 during his five seasons at the school.  For perspective, the Golden Flashes won 11 games in 2011, the year before Haynes’ arrival.

With Haynes’ ouster, there are now eight FBS head coach openings, with KSU joining Florida, Georgia Southern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Alabama, Tennessee, UCLA and UTEP.

Minnesota, P.J. Fleck reach agreement on contract extension

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Not even through his first full season as head coach, and P.J. Fleck has already been rewarded for his work.

Minnesota announced Wednesday morning that it has reached an agreement on a contract extension with Fleck into 2023.  The 36-year-old head coach originally signed a five-year contract with the school, making this a two-year extension.

A December meeting of the school’s Board of Regents will rubber stamp the extension and make it official.

“It’s an honor to coach at the University of Minnesota and in the Big Ten,” said Fleck in a statement. “[athletic director] Mark Coyle and I share the same goal of building a championship culture and team at Minnesota. It’s a goal that we are working on daily together and one that we will achieve. I am proud of how hard our young men have worked to improve this season on living a holistic life. They have taken great strides in bettering themselves athletically, academically, socially and spiritually. I look forward to leading them and watching them grow on and off the field as we continue to move this program forward.”

In his first season at Minnesota after coming to the Big Ten program from Western Michigan, Fleck has the Gophers at 5-6.  Fleck took over a team that won nine games in 2016, and, if they fail to beat fifth-ranked Wisconsin Saturday, would have their fewest wins in a season since going 3-9 in Jerry Kill‘s first year in 2011.

On the flip side, his five wins are the first for a first-year Gophers coach since Murray Warmath won seven games in 1954.  Additionally, he became the first coach to win his Gophers debut since John Gutekunst did the same back in 1986.

“When we hired Coach Fleck, I talked about his authentic energy and passion, and his dedication to building a unique team culture. This year, I have seen our students connect with his energy and embrace that culture,” Coyle said in his statement. “From the commitment and hard work of our current students, to building a nationally-ranked recruiting class that will be among the best in program history, I have seen the foundation of what Coach Fleck is building, and I’m looking forward to supporting him for years to come.”

Status of TCU’s top two QBs up in the air for Baylor game

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For a game with significant implications on a couple of levels, this is a little more than mildly intriguing, at least at this point in the week.

If TCU handles one-win Baylor Friday, the Horned Frogs will play Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game next Saturday. If they don’t, they could allow Iowa State to sneak into the title-game side door.

With that much on the line, Gary Patterson seemingly confirmed Tuesday that both his top two quarterbacks, Kenny Hill and Shawn Robinson, are questionable for the Week 13 home game vs. the Bears with unspecified injuries.

The day before, though, Patterson had labeled Hill as “closer to probable” with what’s believed to be a concussion.  Then again, in the days leading up to the Texas Tech game, Patterson had Hill listed as “between probable and questionable” as well.

Hill started the first 10 games of the season, but was injured in the Week 11 loss to Oklahoma and was ultimately ruled out prior to the Tech game. Robinson then started his first career game in Week 12, but was injured in the win over the Red Raiders as well.

If neither is able to go, Grayson Muehlstein would get the nod. The redshirt sophomore, who has yet to attempt a pass in his career, would become the second Horned Frogs in as many weeks to make his first career start at the collegiate level.

Charles Barkley to serve as College GameDay’s guest picker ahead of huge Iron Bowl showdown

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Really, could there be anybody else?

As it’s the last full Saturday of the 2017 college football season, there are a handful of huge matchups with significant implications both nationally and conference-wise.  Given where each stands in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, however, there’s none bigger than No. 1 Alabama traveling to No. 6 Auburn in the latest edition of the Iron Bowl.

Not surprisingly, ESPN‘s wildly popular College GameDay pregame show had previously announced that it would set up shop on The Plains for the rivalry game.  And just as much of a non-surprise is the show’s designated guest picker.

Charles Barkley, of course, played his college basketball at Auburn and has since turned into not only an NBA Hall of Famer but also someone who is never, ever shy about giving an opinion on pretty much anything — including issues related to college football and, of course, “hatred” of all things Crimson Tide. Well, except for the Nicktator.

Of course, there’s also the little matter of a preseason bet with a certain ‘Bama starting quarterback that will no doubt get some run during Barkley’s third appearance on the show.  His first two, Barkley picked Auburn… and was correct both times, the first being 2004 when he opted for his alma mater over Tennessee.  The second?  November of 2013, when he tabbed the Tigers to top the Tide, which they did.

Just sayin’, is all.