Oregon v Stanford

Pac 12, Big 12 heavyweight battles will help frame BCS picture

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So you say the weeknight college football action has been kind of lame this season? Well then this is the Thursday night you have been waiting all year for, and it was worth the wait. Tonight will feature two of the biggest games of the year in the Pac 12 and Big 12, and the conference championship picture in each should come in to focus at the end of the night. But what about the BCS picture? Well, that could start to clear up a little bit or end up getting a little more complicated.

With Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac 12), Stanford (7-1, 5-1 Pac 12) and  Baylor (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) all ranked in the BCS top ten and in action, this Thursday night will pack plenty of punch to provide an alternative to whatever the NFL has to offer.

Stanford vs. Oregon

This is the biggest game between Oregon and Stanford since, well, last year. Once again, the top two teams in the Pac 12 will square off in a Pac 12 North battle that will likely determine which school gets home field advantage in the Pac 12 championship game. The winner also remains in the BCS championship picture while the loser may have to settle for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Quite the consolation prize though, right? Stanford scored an overtime victory in Eugene last season to shatter Oregon’s BCS championship dreams. Can they do it again?

There are only a handful of teams in the country that play a style of defense that should be able to slow down Oregon’s high-scoring offense. Alabama and Florida State may have it. So does Stanford. The Cardinal may play the best defense there is in the Pac 12, but even they will have to bring a strong performance at home to slow down the Ducks. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is currently in a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy with Florida State’s Jameis Winston, but a strong performance at Stanford could help him pull back ahead after Winston has seized the momentum. Will Mariota have a Heisman moment?

Stanford’s defense will be the biggest factor in this game. If they can tame the Ducks and let Tyler Gaffney lead the Stanford ground game to control the clock, the Cardinal will be in good shape. Stanford has already thrown a brick wall at some potent offenses this season — Arizona State, Washington, UCLA — and they play confident when they face Oregon. Oregon’s last game against UCLA showed they can be contained but it is difficult to keep them down for long, and points can come in a hurry.

The road team has won this match-up each of the past two years, with home field advantage in the Pac 12 championship game going to the winner each time. The stakes are as high as they can get for the Pac 12 considering a spot in the BCS championship game is still on the line as well. A win likely nudges Orgeon past Florida State, and Stanford is the best one-loss team in the country according to the BCS standings.

Baylor vs. Oklahoma

For as good as Baylor has been under Art Briles, the Bears may still be looking for the win that puts them over the edge from very good to Big 12 team to beat. On Thursday night, Baylor will get that opportunity that has been building over the last few years in Waco. Baylor is battling a stigma that suggests the Bears are all about the offense and little else. That may not be true though. While the Bears offense is on record pace this season, the defense has allowed just 13.9 points per game. Is this Baylor defense the most unheralded defensive unit in the country? They could very well be.

Only two teams have scored more than 14 points against Baylor (Kansas Sate, West Virginia), although it is fair to argue their opponents have not been all that outstanding. Still, Baylor ranks sixth in the nation ins scoring defense. The Bears are also fourth in the Big 12 in rushing defense and first against the pass (sixth in the country), which may be a bit surprising considering teams often have to try catching up by throwing more often to attempt to keep pace Baylor offense. On Thursday night the Bears look for their best win of the season when they host Oklahoma, a one loss team still in the discussion for a Big 12 championship and one that could start to build a case as the best one-loss team in the country if things fall in to place.

But the story here is Baylor. If Ohio State was left at the rest stop on the BCS highway, Baylor never made it out of the driveway. But that could change in a hurry. Yes, Baylor likely still needs some help given the strength of schedule to this point, but the Bears have a back-loaded conference schedule that will see games against three currently ranked teams (Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) and another with a winning record (Texas) in addition to a rivalry game against struggling but defensively sound TCU on a neutral field. With players like Bryce Petty and Lache Seastrunk on offense and a defense that has played better than given credit for, maybe this Baylor team still has some tricks to show off.

 

Reports: A&M bringing back Jim Turner as O-line coach

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 17:  Offensive line coach, Jim Turner, of the Miami Dolphins coaches his players before their game against the San Diego Chargers at Sun Life Stadium on November 17, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Wednesday brought word that Texas A&M’s defensive line coach was hired for the same job at Indiana.  The dawn of a new day has brought word that Kevin Sumlin has addressed his line vacancy on the other side of the ball, and with a very familiar face at that.

Billy Liucci of TexAgs.com was the first to report that Sumlin has decided to bring Jim Turner back as his offensive line coach.  FOXSports.com‘s Bruce Feldman subsequently confirmed the initial report.

Turner would replace Dave Christensen, who “parted ways” with the program earlier this month.  According to 247Sports.com, Turner “was chosen over former Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Bob Bostad and current McNeese State offensive line coach Eman Naghavi” to be Christensen’s replacement.

Turner spent the 2008-11 seasons as the line coach at A&M under Mike Sherman.  After Sherman’s firing in December of 2011, Turner followed the ex-Aggies head coach to the Miami Dolphins, where the former was the line coach and the latter the offensive coordinator.

After two seasons with the NFL club, Turner was fired after getting swept up in the maelstrom that was the Dolphins’ bullying and harassment scandal.  Turner subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming “his reputation and career have been unfairly affected” by the reports commissioned by the NFL.

Turner spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons “in private business” before being hired earlier this year to be the line coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats.

Irish WR Corey Robinson elected Notre Dame student body president

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 18:  Corey Robinson #88 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts to a touchdown that was called back for pass interference late in the fourth quarter during their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Regardless of how you feel about Notre Dame, this is really a rather impressive and refreshing story.

Late last month, we noted that Irish junior wide receiver Corey Robinson had tossed his hat into the campus political ring and was running for student body president.  Election Day on the South Bend campus was Wednesday, and it was officially announced Thursday morning that Robinson, the son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, was the winner of the race and has been elected as the university’s student body president.

The first day in office for Robinson, along with vice president-elect Becca Blais, is April 1.

“It feels very humbling to be able to be announced the president and vice president of Notre Dame,” Robinson said according to the school’s student newspaper. “It’s [definitely something] we’ve been dreaming about for a long time, and to be able to be here and lead the student body is just something I am very thankful for.”

Robinson totaled 16 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown last season. With the departures of four of the Irish’s top five pass-catchers, Robinson is being counted on to be an integral part of the squad’s passing game in 2016.

When he announced his candidacy, Robinson addressed the time demands the new position would entail and how it should have minimal impact on the football side of his life.

“This spring, all of our practices are in the morning, so we practice from six in the morning until 10 a.m., and the rest of the day is free, and I have one class a day, no class on Fridays. In the summer, same kind of thing — we only practice for two hours a day, and I’m going to be here every day, all day, so that’ll be easy as well. I’m only taking one class,” Robinson said.

“In the fall, we practice to 2:30 to 7, so anything between those hours, I can’t participate in, but the rest of the day, I’m free. I’m going to have three or four classes … and the way my schedule works, only football and student body, so that way, I’ll be able to be fully invested in both, in those two aspects.”

‘Bama officially announces Derrick Ansley as DBs coach

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A handful of days after Nick Saban had reportedly filled a hole in his Alabama coaching staff, the Tide officially brought out the shovel Wednesday.

The football program confirmed in a press release that Derrick Ansley has been hired by Saban to coach the Tide’s defensive backs.  Ansley will replace Mel Tucker, who left last month to take the job as defensive coordinator on Kirby Smart‘s new Georgia staff.

This is a return home of sorts for Ansley as he spent the 2010 and 2011 seasons at Alabama as a graduate assistant.

“We are very happy to have Derrick and his family back at Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “Derrick did an outstanding job when he was with us as a graduate assistant, and he has a very good understanding of how we run our program and what is expected. He is a bright young coach, and he will be a great addition working with the defensive backs. We also believe he will be a tremendous asset to our staff in the recruiting process.”

Ansley had spent the past three seasons at Kentucky, the first two as cornerbacks coach and the last in charge of the entire secondary. Just prior to leaving for the Tide, he had been named as the Wildcats’ co-defensive coordinator.

His first job at the Power Five the defensive backs coach at Tennessee (2012).

USC: Pat Haden ‘stable… resting comfortably at local hospital’

Steve Sarkisian, Pat Haden
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Following up on reports of a “health event” involving outgoing USC athletic director Pat Haden, the university offered up a release Wednesday night on the administrator’s condition.

According to a release, Haden is in stable condition and “resting comfortably at a local hospital” as of late last night.  The 63-year-old Haden undergoing medical testing, but “plans to be back soon watching his Trojans in action.”

“He thanks all for their concern,” the release added.

Early Wednesday afternoon, reports surfaced that Haden nearly collapsed outside of Heritage Hall and was treated by paramedics called to the scene. Shortly thereafter, per reports, he was taken to the hospital via ambulance.

In the release, the university clarified the chain of events:

Haden was walking back from an on-campus meeting this morning and felt lightheaded, similar to how he felt at the Notre Dame game last October. He sat down outside Heritage Hall and the athletic department’s medical personnel attended to him. Haden was alert and talking as he walked under his own power up to his office in Heritage Hall. Medical personnel continued to attend to him there before transporting him to his doctor off campus.

A similar episode prior to the Notre Dame game last season prompted Haden to step down from his position as a member of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Lingering health issues played a role in his decision earlier this month to step down as USC’s athletic director later this year.