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Updated: Service academy football teams will play Saturday

Army v Navy Getty Images

Despite the government shutdown, it appears as though the service academy football teams will be able to follow through with Saturday’s scheduled games as originally planned. According to a report, a senior defense official says Army, Air Force and Navy will all be able to play football on Saturday. Navy has since confirmed their game against Air Force will be played as scheduled.

According to a report by the Associated Press, the decisions to allow games to be played this weekend is just for this weekend. Future games will be evaluated over the next few days while everyone waits to see how long the government will be in shutdown mode. The hope, of course, is that the shutdown does not last too long and everything as far as football operations can resume to a normal routine without fear of having to cancel any games.

Air Force is scheduled to play at Navy on Saturday. Army is scheduled to play at Boston College. While the government is shut down to ease financial  concerns, none of the service academies were in danger of canceling football this weekend for financial reasons, according to previous reports. The decisions to postpone any football games would have been more of a political move of solidarity for fear of offending any being frozen out of a paycheck. United Airlines offered to provide free transportation to Air Force’s football team and Boston College had explored to chip in for Army’s travel expenses.

Because the games for the service academies are funded through non-appropriated funds, Army and Air Force traveling is not a concern related to the shutdown. It also helped that the expenses for the traveling for the service academies had been planned in advance and is not a new cost in the budget. Here’s hoping that no matter how long the shutdown may last, that at least football will continue to be played as planned.

Now, if this shutdown reaches a worst-case scenario and for whatever reason extends through the end of the year, then bowl games perhaps become a victim for any bowl-eligible service academy. And I have not even gotten to the topic of the number of bowl eligible teams to available bowl spots. This seems extremely unlikely so I  suggest we cross that bridge when we get there, or is that a bridge to nowhere?

UPDATE (9:53 p.m. ET): Navy has made the news for their home game against Air Force official, via Twitter.

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Penn State QB makes history in Croke Park Classic

Christian Hackenberg

Not even Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge or Michael Robinson did what Penn State’s sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg accomplished Saturday in the Croke Park Classic against the UCF Knights.

Hackenberg is the first quarterback in Penn State history to throw for 400 yards or more in a single game as he lead the Nittany Lions to a thrilling 26-24 victory over the Knights in Dublin, Ireland.

The sophomore finished 32-of-47 passing for 454 yards. The performance was highlighted by a game-winning drive. Hackenberg was 4-of-6 passing for 47 yards during the final 1:13 of the contest to set up the winning field goal by senior kicker Sam Ficken.

During the performance, pundits were drooling over the potential which Hackenberg represents. Hackenberg forced a couple of throws which resulted in interceptions, but those poor throws didn’t take away from the fact he was the best player on the field. This was simply a great performance to build upon a resume that may result in Hackenberg becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 or 2017 NFL draft.

And Penn State capitalized on the talent it has behind center.

Once the team couldn’t establish the run early in the game, the onus fell on Hackenberg to carry the team. He was clearly able to do so. The young signal caller was able to evade pressure in the pocket, make throws on the move and manipulate UCF’s secondary to complete a beautiful 79-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Geno Lewis to give the Nittany Lions a 20-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Lewis finished with 173 receiving yards. Redshirt freshman DaeSean Hamilton was nearly as good with 11 reception for 165 yards.

For UCF, head coach George O’Leary waited far too long to make a crucial change at quarterback.

Redshirt freshman Pete DiNovo started the game and struggled mightly. DiNovo was a paltry 3-of-8 passing for 18 yards. O’Leary then inserted Justin Holman into the lineup, and the sophomore brought instant energy into the lineup. Holman led the Knights to 21 points in the second half with 204 passing yards. He added a pair of touchdowns, one passing and one running. Holman had his team in a position to win with 1:13 remaining. The Knights’ defense simply couldn’t hold as the Nittany Lions leave Ireland with the victory.

Despite the outcome the two teams learned something equally important about their quarterbacks.

Penn State quickly came to the realization they must ride Hackenberg this season as the offensive line continues to gel and the running game struggles. UCF, meanwhile, will almost certainly move forward with Holman behind center, and it will be a better team for it.

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Michigan WR Funchess looks to carry on new uniform tradition

Devin Funchess

Michigan football has a relatively new history of suiting up key players with historic uniform numbers for players. Wide receiver Devin Funchess, playing tight end last season, wore the number 87 jersey, which is the number previously worn by one of the all-time greats in Michigan football history, Ron Kramer. With Funchess moving to wide receiver this season, the Wolverine decided it was best to leave that uniform number to the tight end position.

“It was an incredible honor to be selected to wear the number 87 Legends jersey in honor of Ron Kramer,” Funchess said in a statement shared by Michigan. “I spoke with his son, Kurt, and many of my teammates before I decided to change my number and they were all unbelievably supportive. Ron Kramer was the best tight end in Michigan history, and I think his number should be worn by someone playing that position.”

Funchess will now wear the number one on his uniform. The inspiration to wear that uniform number came from watching former Michigan receivers make big plays wearing the number.

“I watched a lot of Michigan greats over the offseason and kept seeing receivers wearing number one making plays, from Anthony Carter to Derrick Alexander, David Terrell and Braylon Edwards, and I wanted to carry on another Michigan tradition this season.”

Funchess gives Michigan a big target at receiver and it should help boost the quality of receivers for Michigan at what might be a bit of a question mark at the start of the new season. Michigan opens the seaosn at home against Appalachian State.

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Ohio State’s Heuerman will wear Braxton’s No. 5

Braxton Miller

Ohio State opens the news season in Baltimore this afternoon against Navy. The Buckeyes were dealt a major blow to the roster, and thus their lofty expectations, with the loss of quarterback Braxton Miller to a shoulder injury before the season started. Though Miller will not be playing on the field, his presence will be recognized.

Ohio State tight end Jeff Heuerman, a co-captain for the Buckeyes, will wear Miller’s uniform number as a tribute to the injured quarterback.

A classy move, for sure.

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Halftime: Penn State QB is the difference in Croke Park Classic

Christian Hackenberg

Quarterback play is what currently separates the Penn State Nittany Lions from the UCF Knights in the Croke Park Classic in Dublin, Ireland. The Nittany Lions lead the Knights 10-3 thanks to the play of sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg.

Early in the contest, the Knights were winning at the line of scrimmage. The Nittany Lions running game was shut down, and Hackenberg was under duress when he dropped back to pass. The 11 yards on the ground Penn State did accumulate came courtesy of Hackenberg scrambling from the pocket.

Penn State adjusted by moving the pocket and allowed Hackenberg to take over in the passing game. The sophomore was able to complete multiple passes on third down to extend drives which eventually resulted in points. At the half, Hackenberg is 17-of-26 passing for 218 yards. Redshirt freshman wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton was the biggest beneficiary of Hackenberg’s play with 107 receiving yards through two quarters.

Hackenberg was allowed to get on track after a roughing the punter penalty granted the Nittany Lions a first down during their initial drive. Hackenberg connected with Hamilton for a 44-yard gain, which eventually resulted in a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Zach Zwinak. The score held up as the difference going into halftime.

Pete DiNovo, meanwhile, struggled during his first start as UCF’s quarterback. DiNovo was 3-of-7 passing for 18 yards. The quarterback’s inability to connect in the passing game allowed Penn State to load the box and shut down the Knights’ running game. The Knights only had 17 yards via the ground game.

Due to DiNovo’s ineffectiveness, UCF head coach George O’Leary replaced him just before halftime with sophomore Justin Holman, who served as Blake Bortles‘ backup last season.

O’Leary now has a decision to make coming out of halftime. Will he allow Holman to continue at quarterback, or will the coach go back to DiNovo?

The answer will decide UCF’s fate during the second half of play.

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CFB after dark: Houston falls to in-state underdog, Arizona’s offense still rolling

Larry Coker

Saturday may be the first full day of college football, but quality games were being played into the wee hours Friday night.

The biggest surprise on the night came from UTSA’s stunning 27-7 upset of the Houston Cougars. The Roadrunners are in their fourth season as a program and are led by head coach Larry Coker (remember him?). The program enters its first season as a full-fledged FBS member. Yet, UTSA dominated a Cougars squad that was expected to compete for an American Athletic Conference championship this year and features one of the best young quarterbacks in the nation in John O’Korn.

O’Korn and the Cougars couldn’t get on track on offense. Houston only managed 206 total yards. The Cougars were held to minus-26 yards rushing. The Roadrunners also intercepted O’Korn four times.

The Roadrunners, meanwhile, relied on a strong running game. UTSA accumulated 146 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns.

Coker is now 20-15 overall as he continues to build the Roadrunners program. Despite being 60-15 during his six seasons as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes and a national championship, Coker couldn’t be happier than he is today.

“It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve been involved with as far as coaching is concerned,” Coker told SI.com’s Pete Thamel.

In Las Vegas, the underdog UNLV Rebels didn’t have a chance against the Arizona Wildcats.

UNLV ran into a buzzsaw Friday night during a 58-13 loss to the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona’s redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon starred during his first start. Solomon threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns as the offense rolled up a school record 787 total yards. The performance was stunning after Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez waited until earlier in the week to finally name Solomon the starting quarterback.

During the Wildcats’ impressive offensive effort, two running backs, Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson, as well as two receivers, Austin Hill and Samajie Grant, accumulated 100 yards on the ground and in the air.

The Wildcats added an exclamation point to start of their season. Arizona’s next opponent? The UTSA Roadrunners.

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Auburn’s Robenson Therezie ruled eligible to play against Arkansas

Robenson Therezie, Brett Bartolone

One the eve of college football’s first Saturday of the season, the Auburn Tigers received very good news. The team’s “star” on defense, Robenson Therezie, will be eligible to play against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The news was announced Friday night on twitter by the school’s sports information director, Kirk Sampson.

There were concerns Therezie wouldn’t be able to play at the start of the season. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said two weeks ago Therezie was “working through some eligibility issues.”

The school never specified the issues, but Therezie was cleared just in time. The senior is a key cog in Ellis Johnson‘s defense. Not only is Therezie an opportunistic pass defender, but he is also a strong run defender. Last season, Therezie finished sixth on the team with 57 total tackles and led the team with four interceptions. His leadership in the secondary only adds to the team’s most experienced unit. Four of the five starters among the Tigers’ defensive backs are seniors. This level of experience will only help as the team attempts to repeat as SEC champions.

The addition of Therezie also helps build depth along the Tigers’ secondary. The senior isn’t guaranteed to start against the Razorbacks, though. The coaching staff prepared junior Justin Garrett to start over the course of two weeks. Garrett can now be counted upon when needed to provide quality reps in the defense. It will be up to Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn to decide whether or not Therezie starts.

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Access denied: FIU doesn’t provide credential for only beat writer

Ron Turner, FIU

Exposure is everything in today’s college football landscape. Unfortunately for the players at Florida International University, the school’s decision makers don’t feel the same way.

FIU and the Miami Herald are caught in a little tiff.

The Herald is the only news agency in the area which employs a beat writer to cover FIU athletics. In the infinite wisdom of those making decisions at FIU, they denied access to the Herald’s beat writer, David J. Neal, for the Panthers’ season-opener against Bethune-Cookman.

“It’s unprecedented for any local team to refuse to credential our beat reporter without reason,” Miami Herald Executive Editor Aminda Marqués Gonzalez said. “The team does not get to choose who covers the program.”

The newspaper decided not cover the game at all after FIU denied the credential.

“We’re very disappointed the Herald has decided on this course,” Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, FIU’s senior vice president for external relations, said. “Credentials were given to other reporters. We regret that this is the Herald’s choice.”

FIU never provided a reason why Neal’s credential was denied.

It’s simply another misstep for a football program has been in a downward spiral since it fired Mario Cristobal. During Cristobal’s tenure the coach led the Panthers to two bowl games before he was unceremoniously dismissed. The team then struggled to find any coaching candidates that were interested in the vacant position. The team eventually hired Ron Turner, who finished with an 1-11 record during his first season.

Furthermore, the people hurt by this decision are the players. They don’t get the exposure they deserve for the work they’ve done. And the community doesn’t have the opportunity to read about a program the newspaper is willing to support.

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Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury receives contract extension

Kliff Kingsbury

An 8-5 record for a first-time coach was impressive enough for Texas Tech’s brass to pony up more cash. On the eve of the college football season, Texas Tech announced a three-year contract extenstion with head coach Kliff Kingsbury. 

“The new deal, which will run through the 2020 season, has a guaranteed total base of $24.2 million. Including this season Tech will pay Kingsbury an average of $3.5 million per year,” sources told FOX Sports‘ Bruce Feldman.

Kingsbury’s original contract was slated to end in 2017.

According to Feldman, Kingsbury signed the deal Friday, and it makes him the fourth highest-paid head coach in the Big 12 Conference behind Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Baylor’s Art Briles and Texas’ Charlie Strong.

“The deal also affords the charismatic 35-year-old to earn as much as an extra $1.5 million in bonuses each year,” Feldman reported. “Kingsbury can max $34.7 million over the length of the contract.”

Bottom line:  This is a preventative measure by Texas Tech.

The school is investing heavily in Kingsbury to keep him in Lubbock long term. Kingsbury is one of the youngest and most exciting coaches in college football. Despite graduating from Texas Tech, there was continued whispers Kingsbury would eventually leave the program for a higher profile program or the NFL. But Kingsbury put those rumors to rest.

“This is where I want to be and I couldn’t be happier,” Kingsbury said in the statement.  “I can’t wait to take this thing to the next level.”

A potential departure will be difficult anyhow.

Texas Tech isn’t simply investing to keep a popular young coach in town. The university is setting up the athletic department for success in the future.

Earlier Friday, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt updated numbers to promote the school’s “Campaign for Fearless Champions.” The school has already raised $75 million, but the number is far short of its goal of $185 million.

The school also unveiled plans Friday to continue to fund improvements in 17 sports.

“We want to move as quickly as we can, but we are dependent upon having the funding streams and revenue in place,” Hocutt told the Lubbock Avalanche’s Don Williams. “We will continue to visit with folks about investing into these facilities, and as the opportunity presents itself — from a funding mechanism, from fundraising success — we will move forward.”

As part of the campaign, Texas Tech plans to build onto Jones AT&T Stadium by adding a “three-level south end zone building that can house 30 suites — 15 each on levels two and three — and a Hall of Fame, stadium club and athlete dining hall on the lower level.”

In order to make money, a program has to spend money.

An investment in a talented young coach like Kingsbury is a legitimate step in the school realizing its vision. Kingsbury, meanwhile, must continue to prepare his team for Saturday’s opponent, Central Arkansas. Kingsbury’s extension is certainly a good start to the Reds Raiders’ season.

“There has never been a more exciting time within our football program than now,” Hocutt said. “I am very proud of the program Coach Kingsbury is building and I know our fans are as well. We can’t wait to kick off the season tomorrow night at Jones AT&T Stadium and are looking forward to a bright future.”

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Report: Les Miles picks Anthony Jennings to start at QB

Anthony Jennings

The LSU Tigers have a difficult match-up against the Wisconsin Badgers to open the season, and sophomore quarterback Anthony Jennings will be the man responsible to lead the Tigers onto the field.

“… Jennings will start at quarterback for the Tigers in their season opening game against Wisconsin here Saturday,” a source told The Times-Picayune‘s Jim Kleinpeter.

Jennings is in a competition with fellow sophomore Brandon Harris to earn the spot vacated by Zach Mettenberger. Last season, Jennings served as Mettenberger’s backup. Jennings played in nine games and started the Outback Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes. In limited playing time, Jennings was 13-of-29 passing for 181 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Due to his role last year, Jennings was projected as the favorite to win the starting position. However, he struggled mightily in the bowl game. LSU won the contest despite his play. And Harris was a highly-regarded four-star recruit.

While Jennings is on the verge of opening the season as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, this competition likely isn’t over. LSU head coach Les Miles has been very secretive of the play of his quarterbacks during fall practice. Jennings might have the slight edge due to experience, but a slight dip in his play may cause Miles to go in a different direction at quarterback.

Miles said earlier this month he would name a starter when “it’s appropriate or when it’s right or two quarterbacks aren’t going to play, we’ll name a starter.”

The head coach has yet to officially name Jennings the starter, which means Harris may even have a chance of playing at some point against the Badgers.

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Suspended LB claims Oklahoma made him a ‘scapegoat’

Texas v Oklahoma

Oklahoma linebacker Frank Shannon isn’t pulling any punches after being suspended by the university for a year due to an accusation of sexual assault.

Shannon’s attorney, Aletia Timmons, spoke with the media Friday. Timmons painted a completely different picture than the one that was originally given regarding Shannon’s status.

The most pertinent statement made to the media was Shannon’s claim of innocence.

Shannon and his representation took the linebacker’s claims a step further.

The university reportedly conducted an internal investigation before it handed down it’s punishment. In doing so, Shannon claims the school “failed” him and made him into a “scapegoat.” Shannon even submitted to a polygraph test to clear his name.

Shannon never considered the possibility of transferring from the University of Oklahoma.

“I’m not running,” Shannon told Timmons during their initial meeting, according to The Oklahoman. “I’m not going to be branded as a rapist.”

Instead, Shannon plans to publicly protest the university’s decision to have him suspended.

Shannon’s adamant views make this a compelling case. The university and its football team have to err on the side of caution. Whereas, Shannon obviously feels like his name is being dragged through the mud.

The only thing that bring some finality to this case is the results of the ongoing investigation by the police department. The university can’t budge on its current stance after stating it “takes very seriously its obligation in cases like this.” And Shannon shouldn’t back down if he’s innocent.

Shannon, who was Oklahoma’s leading tackler a year ago, still has the “ability to appeal any decision reached by the University to a district court.” Until then, he’ll have to wait on the sidelines until some type of decision is made.

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UCF unveils new helmet for Croke Park Classic

George O'Leary

Head coach George O’Leary and the UCF Knights are fully immersing themselves into the pageantry which comes along with playing the team’s first game in Dublin, Ireland against the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The team is taking in the culture and loving the cooler temperatures of the Emerald Isle.

“This is football weather,” O’Leary told the Orlando Sentinel.

We can’t forget about the tweak to the uniforms. The Knights will have a little bit of luck on their side with their logo for the special game.

Penn State, of course, won’t be making any changes to their classic uniforms.

It also appears Ireland readily accepted O’Leary and his Knights.

Reminder: The game begins 8:30 a.m. EST to kick off the first Saturday of college football with the right combination of rolling green field and talented football teams.

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Report: Josh Shaw being investigated for possible domestic violence

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Fresno State v USC Getty Images

The Josh Shaw story has taken a turn for the worse.

Not only did Shaw fabricate a story about saving his drowning nephew, which made the USC cornerback appear to be a hero, the reality of the situation may be more unfortunate than initially believed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed Friday it is investigating a potential domestic abuse situation between Shaw and his girlfriend. The incident in question occurred last weekend.

In the earlier police report, officers responded to a call in an downtown Los Angeles apartment building after a “a report of a woman’s screams from a third-floor unit.”

“A neighbor reported seeing a man run across or scale a balcony, and gave a general description of the individual.”

The man fit the Shaw’s description, but he hasn’t been identified as the one exiting the building through a pried window.

The police would like to question Shaw further, but his attorney has declined the opportunity to do so.

“We would have like to hear from Mr. Shaw to provide some clarity about the situation, but that is not going to happen,” Capt. John McMahon, head of Central Division patrol, said. “In light of that, our investigation into a possible domestic dispute will continue.”

Donald Etra, Shaw’s attorney, said his client “has already spoken to the LAPD twice. We believe that is enough. The matter is over and there is no need to talk to them further. … Enough is enough.”

Shaw is indefinitely suspended from USC’s football. A return this season will likely depend on the outcome of the investigation and whether or not his teammates will accept him back. USC head coach Steve Sarkisian released a statement upon making the decision to suspend Shaw.

“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” Sarkisian said in a statement. “He let us all down.  As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.”

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Both BYU starting CBS don’t make trip, won’t play vs. UConn

Georgia Tech v BYU Getty Images

Heading into his first full season as the starting quarterback, Casey Cochran’s opening-day task may have just gotten a tad bit less difficult.

According to the Deseret News, senior cornerbacks Jordan Johnson and Robertson Daniel (picturedhave both been suspended for the season opener against UConn Friday night. The two players didn’t even make the trip with the their teammates to Storrs.

No reason for the disciplinary measures were given.

The losses, though, would serve as significant blows to the Cougars’ secondary as each was listed as a starter on the most recent depth chart. Instead of the two veterans, redshirt freshman Jordan Preator and sophomore Michael Davis will likely get the starting nods.

After starting 12 games in 2012, Johnson missed all of the 2013 season with an ACL injury.  Daniel started 12 games last season after transferring to the Cougars from the JUCO ranks.

The two become the third and fourth Cougar players to be suspended for the opener, joining star running back Jamaal Williams (underage drinking arrest) and backup wide receiver Devon Blackmon (earrings).

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Report: starting LSU CB Rashard Robinson won’t play vs. Badgers

Florida v LSU

When LSU takes to the field for its season opener Saturday, it’ll do so without the services of one its top players in the defensive secondary.

Citing a source close to the situation, the Daily Reveille is reporting that Rashard Robinson is not making the trip with his Tiger teammates to Houston and will not play in tomorrow night’s game against Wisconsin.  The source declined to confirm why the starting cornerback would not be playing or even traveling with the team.

The football program has not yet addressed Robinson’s status for the game, although head coach Les Miles is expected to do so prior to the non-conference matchup with the Badgers.

Robinson, a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2013 recruiting class, started two of the 12 games in which he played as a true freshman last season.  With Robinson apparently out, he’ll likely be replaced by junior Jalen Collins in the starting lineup.

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Kevin Sumlin looks like he’s worth the money for Texas A&M

Kevin Sumlin AP

Kevin Sumlin is one of a handful of college football coaches being paid a $5 million annual salary — and based on Thursday night’s thrashing of South Carolina he’s worth the money.

Texas A&M ran 99 plays — 99! — in its 52-28 win, and did so with a first-time starter in Kenny Hill at quarterback. But, as Yahoo’s Pat Forde argues, maybe last night’s win was just as much about Hill as it was about Sumlin’s system:

Clearly, the pony has plenty of tricks. Sumlin acknowledged a “chip on the shoulder” after reading media predictions calling for the Aggies’ demise.

“Let’s see if they can coach now that the best player in college football is gone,” he said. “… Probably had some coaches, including myself, who took some comments personal in the offseason.”

Sumlin knew what his offense had done before Manziel – when Case Keenum became the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and completions at Houston. So he knew what his offense could do after Manziel as well.

Namely, churn out yards and put up points with spectacular ease. And speed. The Aggies clicked off a staggering 99 plays Thursday, exhausting and bewildering the Gamecocks.

This isn’t to say Texas A&M can win with any quarterback in there. But Sumlin has found three quarterbacks in Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel and Hill who can run his offense to perfection.

Armed with the right quarterback, Sumlin’s offense is incredibly difficult to stop. And make no mistake, Hill deserves a ton of credit for going into Columbia and playing as well as he did in his first career start. He completed 44 of 60 passes for 511 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But if Sumlin can get that kind of game out of a first-time starter in a hostile environment…then yeah, maybe that $5 million price tag is worth it.

It’s the same $5 million price tag Spurrier poked fun at over the summer.

“A&M has recruited well, I know that. I read those rankings every year,” Spurrier said. “Kevin Sumlin has an excellent record as a coach. He’s a good negotiator, we know that also.”

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