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Weekend Preview: Championship races coming down to the wire

Florida State v Clemson Getty Images

It’s time to get prepared for another critical weekend around college football. Division and conference races are coming down the home stretch and postseason eligibility is still on the line for a number of teams. Here’s a rundown of what to pay attention to this weekend.

Alabama, Florida State on collision course

If you go by what the national narrative is, we are all set for No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) vs. No. 2 Florida State (9-0, 7-0 ACC) in the final BCS Championship game. That would be a rather fitting match-up of course, with Florida Sate having played in the first three BCS title games under the new format and Alabama having won three of the last four. It really would be a fitting way to close the book on the BCS, but we still have some games to get through before really digging in to that theme. This week should end with both picking up another win.

Alabama will have the more difficult task this weekend though, going on the road to take on a Mississippi State team that is in real need of a win. While Alabama continues to pound SEC competition, Mississippi State (4-5, 1-4 SEC) has given up 85 points in their last two games while sinking below .500. Mississippi State is coming off losses to ranked South Carolina and Texas A&M, so a home game against Alabama will wrap up a rough three-game stretch. A loss means Mississippi State needs to win their final two games of the year to become bowl eligible. The pressure for Dan Mullen really is mounting. And Nick Saban thinks he has pressure with his job.

In Tallahassee the Seminoles will wrap up their ACC schedule with a home game against Syracuse (5-4, 3-2 ACC). Florida State is already heading to the ACC Championship Game regardless of the outcome, but another big win should be enough to keep Florida State comfortably in the top two of the BCS standings. After a week that saw Heisman front-runner Jameis Winston thrown in to a potentially negative spotlight this week, how he handles the situation should be interesting. Winston has answered every challenge thrown his way this season. There should be no reason he does not answer this one either.

Auburn hosting Georgia

The biggest threat to Alabama in the SEC is likely Auburn (9-1, 5-1 SEC). Before we start making plans for one of the biggest Iron Bowls in history though, Auburn must get by Georgia (6-3, 4-2 SEC) this weekend. The Bulldogs may have been roughed up and beat up this season, but Georgia has won two straight games and is capable of playing spoiler. Heck, a win for Georgia even gives the defending SEC East champs an outside shot at returning to Atlanta although the odds are still not very good. Auburn has been thriving on the running game and has not had to rely much on the passing game. If the Tigers can continue to break big plays on the ground, Auburn will continue to have Alabama’s attention.

All eyes on Durham, North Carolina, of course

Maybe Duke (7-2, 3-2 ACC) going to a bowl game last year wasn’t exactly a fluke. The Blue Devils are now in position to make a run to take on Florida State in the ACC Championship Game. In football. Seriously.

A bit of a tangled mess in the ACC Coastal Division could start to sort itself out a little more this weekend after Georgia Tech concluded their ACC schedule with a loss Thursday night at Clemson. Duke can keep pace with Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2 ACC) if they can pick up a home win against a Miami (7-2, 3-2 ACC) team that is all of a sudden sinking. A win for Duke will also clinch the most wins in a single season (eight) since winning eight games in 1994. Virginia Tech will be playing Maryland, which should result in a win unless the offense implodes.

B1G Game in the Big Ten

Ohio State is all but locked in to the Big Ten championship game, but the Legends Division is still a little more open. That could change this weekend with No. 16 Michigan State (8-1, 5-0 Big Ten) travels to Nebraska (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten). The winner will control the fate of the division with time running out in the Big Ten, but the loser will not necessarily be eliminated. The Spartans have been playing the best defense this season int he conference and should be able to control Nebraska’s offense, which will be tested by Ameer Abdullah. If the Spartans shut down Abdullah, it could be a long day for the home team.

Stanford looks to keep Pac 12 edge against revived Trojans

No. 4 Stanford (8-1, 6-1)is coming off the biggest win of the year but must continue the momentum this weekend on the road against one of the hottest teams in the country, if not just the Pac 12. USC (7-3, 4-2) is actually in position for a potential shot at playing for a Pac 12 title, although they need a little help while taking care of their own schedule in front of them. Stanford has won three straight on the strength of their defense that was able to shut down Oregon for three and a half quarters last week. This week they take on a USC team that has won three straight games and is playing quite well on both sides of the football, especially in the running game. USC won’t have Silas Redd but Javorious Allen has burst on the scene the last couple of games. USC may be trying to chop down a red wood with inadequate gear, but they aren’t trying to do so with a butter knife either. A win keeps USC in the Pac 12 South conversation and reopens the path to the Pac 12 championship game (and Rose Bowl?) for Oregon.

You would not want to be Utah today

If there is one team you might feel sorry for this weekend it might just be Utah (4-5, 1-5 Pac 12). The Utes only have one win in Pac 12 play this season, and ironically enough it came against Stanford. This weekend Utah heads to No. 6 Oregon (8-1, 5-1 Pac 12). The Ducks, of course, are returning home after getting trounced by Stanford last week. You have to think Oregon is going to get back on track with their offense rather quickly. Utah is 1-3 on the road this season and has lost three straight Pac 12 games. Utah has been a pesky team this season though. In addition to defeating Stanford, Utah has also topped BYU, taken Oregon State to overtime, lost to UCLA by a touchdown and lost to Arizona State by one. Utah needs two wins to become eligible for a postseason berth, but winning in a place they haven’t won since 1994 is not going to be easy.

Other Conference Races to Watch

American: No. 17 Central Florida (7-1, 4-0 AAC) is in Philadelphia Saturday to take on Temple (1-8, 0-5 AAC). They should leave town with a win against the Owls, putting the Knights one step closer to clinching the conference’s automatic BCS berth. Central Florida has a one-game lead on No. 20 Louisville, Cincinnati and Houston in the loss column and head-to-head tie-breakers against Louisville and Houston, who play each other this weekend. Cincinnati is at Rutgers.

Central Florida does not need to worry about No. 14 Fresno State or No. 15 Northern Illinois, but each of those BCS busting hopefuls will be keeping a close eye on the Knights for BCS standings purposes.

Big 12: No. 24 Texas (7-2, 6-0 Big 12) and No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) could collide in a de facto Big 12 championship in the final week of the season, but let;s see if they get through this weekend first. Texas takes on No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) and Baylor faces Texas Tech (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) in Cowboys Stadium.

Conference USA: North Texas is closing in on a Conference USA division championship in the west. North Texas is battling Rice for the top spot in the division, with each owning one conference loss and North Texas owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. UTSA can become eligible for their first bowl game in program history with just one more win.

SEC: No. 9 Missouri (9-1, 5-1 SEC) needs to avoid any head-to-head tie-breakers with No. 10 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2 SEC) in the SEC East, so a win this weekend at Ole Miss would be huge before hosting Texas A&M in the regular season finale. Missouri enters the weekend one game ahead of the Gamecocks in the loss column. South Carolina owns the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to an overtime victory a few weeks back at Missouri.

Bowl Eligibility Update

The following teams in action this weekend are one win shy of bowl eligibility:

Rutgers, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, UTSA, Navy, San Diego State, San Jose State, Colorado State, Vanderbilt, Arkansas State, Troy

Conversely, the following teams can be eliminated from postseason considerations with a loss this weekend:

South Florida, Memphis, NC State, West Virginia, TCU, Illinois, Florida Atlantic, Central Michigan, New Mexico

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Virginia Tech inks defensive coordinator (Beamer’s successor?) Bud Foster to extension

North Carolina v Virginia Tech Getty Images

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster was already the highest-paid assistant coach in the country, but the Hokies took another step toward securing their top assistant in Blacksburg on Monday. Foster has agreed to a five-year contract that will reportedly pay him a little more than $200,000 than his current salary. Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times was first to report news of the contract, via Twitter.

Foster has been a name floating around various coaching rumors for a few years now, but with the new contract in Blacksburg it appears as though Virginia Tech is just making sure one of the top defensive coordinators leaves them. The Hokies could be lining Foster up for a potential coach-in-waiting situation under Frank Beamer.

Beamer, 68 years old, is obviously not going to be around as head coach forever, and his retirement could come anytime in the next few years. Foster is well-respected within the football program and Virginia Tech community. Many have suspected he could eventually be Beamer’s successor, and this new contract could make that more likely.

Foster’s defenses have traditionally been one of the best in the ACC. This year the Hokies ranked fifth in total defense in the ACC, but that is more a blip on the radar than anything else. The Hokies have been ranked second in the ACC in total defense six out of the last eight seasons. Foster has been on Beamer’s staff since 1987 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1995.

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Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen wins Maxwell Football Club’s coaching award

Dan Mullen

Following the most successful season in Mississippi State football program history, head coach Dan Mullen added a new honor to his bio. Mullen was named the George Munger Award winner Monday by the Maxwell Football Club, honoring the top college football coach.

Mississippi State went 10-2 in 2014, making a push for the SEC championship and a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs may have fallen shy of that goal in the month of November, but that does not take away from the level of play performed by Mississippi State under Mullen. Mississippi State climbed from unranked to number one in the Associated Press poll in a shorter span than any other team in history. Mississippi State broke 22 single-season records along the way.

“Coach Mullen has engineered a tremendous season for the Mississippi State football program,” Maxwell Football Club Executive Director Mark Wolpert said in a released statement. “The team’s 10-2 record is a great testament to the hard work of Coach and his staff, and also to the dedication shown by the student-athletes involved in the football program at Mississippi State University.”

The George Munger Award is named after former University of Pennsylvania head coach George Munger. The award was replaced by the Joseph V. Paterno Award for the same honor, named after former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno. Following the Jerry Sandusky scandal in 2011, the Maxwell Football Club stripped Paterno’s name from the award and returned to the name of Munger.

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe was the 2013 Maxwell Football Club’s coach of the year. The last time the award went to a coach from the SEC was when Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer won the award in 1998. Mullen is just the fourth SEC coach (Auburn’s Terry Bowden in 1993 and Alabama’s Gene Stallings in 1992) to win the Maxwell’s collegiate coaching award since it was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler.

Mullen will be presented the award during an awards gala put on by ther Maxwell Football Club on March 13, 2015 at the Tropicana Casino Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. All of the Maxwell Football Club’s award winners will be honored at that time, including Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (Maxwell Award) and Arizona’s Scooby Wright III (Chuck Bednarik Award).

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Christmas comes early for walk-on TE at Tennessee (video)

You can never get enough of this stuff in college football. For all the negative stories that come about, there are plenty of positive stories. This being the holiday season, we can never see enough of the good around the sport.

This takes us all to Tennessee, where Vols head coach Butch Jones gave walk-on tight end Alex Ellis the best present possible, a scholarship. Ellis has played in all 12 games this season and has six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt junior from Delaware may not have a significant impact on the field for the Vols, but his dedication and hard work has not gone unrecognized, nor unrewarded, by the Tennessee coaching staff.

Jones closed a team meeting by handing out presents to the hardest working player in bowl practices when he called Ellis down to receive his present.

Tennessee will face Iowa in the Taxslayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida on January 2, 2015.

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Texas still the most valuable football program, but lead narrows

University of Texas Introduces Charlie Strong Getty Images

The Texas Longhorns remain the most valuable football program in college football, despite seeing the value of the program dip from it’s estimated value from a year ago. The annual list of most valuable college football programs assembled by Forbes shows Texas is valued at $131 million, which is down from $139 million from 2013. While Texas is still the most valuable program in the land, other programs appear to be catching up.

Notre Dame is the second-most valuable program according to Forbes with a value of $122 million. That is about $5 million from 2013 due to an extended contract with NBC as well as new revenue coming in through the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame receives $2.3 million from the new playoff format annually, compared to its $1.9 million paycheck from the old BCS. Notre Dame also started a new scheduling agreement with the ACC to provide not only for more stable scheduling but for more marketable match-ups to go with its traditional rivalries.

Michigan followed Notre Dame with a value of $117 million. Two SEC schools followed; Alabama ($107 million) and LSU ($103 million). The rest of the top 10 programs are;

6. Auburn ($97 million)
7. Tennessee ($94 million)
8. Oklahoma ($93 million)
9. Ohio State ($87 million)
10. Georgia ($83 million)

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Attorney for Jameis Winston comes out swinging

Jameis Winston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was cleared by a university code of conduct hearing on Sunday. The ruling means Winston will not be punished by the school for any alleged misconduct in violation of school code stemming from a previous sexual encounter with a woman. This also means Winston will be eligible to play for Florida State in the upcoming Rose Bowl against Oregon, the College Football Playoff semifinal.

With the ruling now made official, the attorney for Winston, David Cornwell, is sharing his reaction and thoughts on the entire process, and he has come out laying haymakers at anyone who may have been against he and his client from the start. Cornwell was a guest on the Erik Kuselias Show on NBC Sports Radio Monday morning, where he never held back. Cornwell took aim at the accuser in the case, calling her a liar and accusing the accuser’s family of demanding to be paid.

Below is the entire transcript as provided by the Erik Kuselias Show.

Erick Kuselias: Major Harding said, “I don’t find him more credible, I don’t find her more credible. She has to have a burden of proof of being more credible and she’s not, so I’m sending everybody home.” Do you agree with that reading or did you read it differently?

David Cornwell: That’s precisely what he wrote. I don’t find one story more persuasive than the other. She has the burden of showing at minimum 51 percent. I’m not surprised because she adjusted her story for the 7th time and moved the alleged rape out of the bedroom where one of the teammates testified that it appeared to be consensual, and into a bathroom where nobody else was present of claimed to observe the act. This was the 7th change in her story and in a he-said-she-said case, the best the accused can hope for is 50-50, right?

EK: Is the single biggest change in her story that she changes her account of the location of where she claimed the alleged attack occurred?

Unfortunately no. There are numerous other areas where she’s changed her story.  Frankly, you know what? There are no winners in this and I feel sorry for this young lady. I think that she was abused by her lawyers. To walk her into this hearing room and say that she suffered from traumatic memory loss without offering any evidence of a physical or mental exam, let alone any expert to suggest that there is such a trauma that enables you to have a better memory two years after an event than you do 20 hours after it. I think in many respects Justice Harding was charitable. Our brief lays out in painstaking detail that number of times that she was apparently coached to change her story, so…as I say I don’t think there are any winners in this. I feel sorry for this young lady to the extent that she was taken through the ringers in a process that was inevitable once she was coached to lie.

Her aunt demanded 7 million dollars from us, I mean, what was this about? What was this about? Why do they think it way okay to do this to a 20 year old college student? To Antonor and Loretta’ son – because he played football?

EK interrupts:  Do you think this is over now? Or do you think Jamies is still going to have to continue on through this process, either through an appeal at Florida State or a civil suit?

DC: EK, I’m going to tell you something – I’m done guessing. I’m done predicting. Because of your background as a lawyer you know, at the water cooler you can flip coins and take guesses, but when you put on your lawyering hat your job is to confront the problem that you’re presented with. So I’m just going to deal with things as they arrive, but I’ll tell you this: These two lawyers that arrived after we rejected the 7 million dollar, uh, demand… they’re not lawyers they’re investors. They’re (unintelligible), they invested in this case, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they tricked themselves into thinking that the return on their investment comes with the filing of a civil complaint. I’ll tell you, with the filing of a civil complaint comes a counter claim against this young lady, unfortunately. Not out of anger, but out of necessity, comes a new complaint against these lawyers because they  made statements that are not protected by the litigation privilege in viciously attacking a 20 year old college student and we’re going to go to their pockets to get damages for that.

EK: Are you saying if she sues you, you will counterclaim against her and her attorneys, or are you going to do that anyway?

DC: No, we have no intention of doing it anyway, but of course, and you can explain to your listeners when our call is done, there’s not a chance we’re going into a courtroom without counter-claims. But separate and apart, what I’m telling you is that if she sues us, we will start a new lawsuit against Mr. Clune and Ms. Carroll.

It was at this point the discussion turned to the media coverage of Winston and the case. As you can imagine, Cornwell was not happy.

EK: All right, I understand you’re an advocate for your client…What is the biggest misconception that I would have if I were just watching the media coverage?

DC: You tell me. I can’t prioritize them, man. I can’t give you a list that says there’s the single greatest one. There is a list of about – if we get the authority, or if we’re challenged, we’ll release our brief and we’ll invite the public to read it and they will see. Do you know that this young lady, after claiming that this man assaulted her, sat there and watched the Clemson game his first year as a starter? And tweeted about it? Tweeted about it? About his successful play against Clemson? I mean, nobody knows about that because the media doesn’t cover the other side of the story.

 

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Not going anywhere: Matt Campbell reportedly re-ups with Toledo

Matt Campbell AP

Toledo coach Matt Campbell’s name has popped up in connection to the vacant job at Pitt, but he can reportedly be taken off that list.

According to the Toledo Blade’s Nicholas Piotrowicz, Campbell has signed a contract extension with Toledo that’ll be formally announced later Monday. The 35-year-old Campbell has led the Rockets to a 25-13 record since taking over for Tim Beckman for the 2011 Military Bowl, which the Rockets won.

Under Campbell, Toledo went 9-4 in 2012, 7-5 in 2013 and 8-4 in 2014, with a Jan. 4 GoDaddy Bowl date with Arkansas State finishing off this season. Toledo even cracked the AP top 25 for a spell in 2012.

Per Piotrowicz, Campbell earned a base salary of $285,000 under his old deal. Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck recently became the highest-paid coach in the MAC, with his base salary checking in at $800,000.

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The meaning behind P.J. Fleck’s ‘Row Your Boat’ mantra at WMU

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Western Michigan didn’t have itself a great weekend, but a 38-24 loss to Air Force shouldn’t put a damper on what was an incredible turnaround in Kalamazoo.

Under the watch of its 34-year-old coach, P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan went from 1-11 to 8-5 and has built some strong recruiting momentum that should have fellow MAC schools on notice. He signed a six-year extension earlier this month and now is the conference’s highest paid coach.

Fleck, though, is probably most well known for a video during his first year as WMU’s coach that produced this gif.

But “Row Your Boat” is much more than a college football Twitter meme. ESPN.com’s Matt Fortuna, in his excellent feature on Fleck, has the coach explain it.

The story is loaded with observations and anecdotes that’ll endear you to Fleck — like his three framed photos of John F. Kennedy hanging beneath the words “If only…” — but this may be the best:

A slide on the PowerPoint presentation behind him shows a mountain with the team’s 2014 opponents lined up in chronological order, from the bottom to the top. Another slide offers all of the weekly nicknames attached to 2014’s schedule, also known as “How Mountain.” Among them: HOWkies (Virginia Tech), ToLeadHOW (Toledo), HOWcoming (Homecoming vs. Ohio).

Fleck rattles them off, punctuating IdaHOW (Idaho) to his assembled audience: “You-da-how …”

“WE-DA-HOW!” the players shout back in unison.

“It’s an active HOWcano,” Fleck says, and everyone cannot help but laugh. “What’s going to happen at 11 a.m. on Black Friday? The shoppers will hear what’s happening at Waldo Stadium.”

Go read the story, and feel free to hope your Power Five program of choice hires Fleck in the next couple years.

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CFT Previews: Your Dec. 22 & 23 Viewer’s Guide

Connecticut v Memphis

Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 22 AND 23 bowl menu, which features one game Monday and two more on Tuesday.

WHO: BYU (8-4) vs. Memphis (9-3)
WHAT: The inaugural Miami Beach Bowl
WHERE: Marlins Park, Miami, Fla.
WHEN: Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Under the direction of Justin Fuente, Memphis went from a 3-9 disaster in 2013 to the 9-3 AAC co-champions in 2014.  The Tigers finished up 2014 riding a six-game winning streak, with five of those wins coming by double digits.  For BYU, its season can be broken down into thirds: unbeaten first and last thirds, winless middle third.  Two of those four losses in the heart of the season, though, came by a mere seven points, including an overtime loss on the road to AAC co-champion UCF.  Three of the Cougars wins, meanwhile, came against Power Five conference members (Texas, Virginia and Cal).  The Tigers’ most impressive performance of the season may have been one of its three losses, a 42-35 setback to UCLA in Pasadena in Week 2.  All in all, this should be one of the better non-marquee matchups of the 2014-15 bowl season.
THE LINE: BYU, +1
THE PREDICTION: Memphis 27, BYU 24

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WHO: Marshall (12-1) vs. Northern Illinois (11-2)
WHAT: The inaugural Boca Raton Bowl
WHERE: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Fla.
WHEN: Dec. 23 at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

__________

WHO: Navy (7-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
WHAT: The 10th San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
WHERE: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Cal.
WHEN: Dec. 23 at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: San Diego State is 13th among Group of Five teams in stopping the run at 145.6 yards per game.  Navy, meanwhile, is third out of all 128 FBS teams in rushing yards per game at 345.1.  The two teams had two common opponents in 2014: Air Force and San Jose State.   SDSU went 2-0 vs. those two (30-14 over AF Week 13, 38-7 over SJSU Week 14) while Navy went 1-1 (41-31 win over SJSU Week 9, 30-21 loss to AF Week 6).  And then there’s this: 35-14.  That was the score of the Aztecs’ 2010 Poinsettia Bowl matchup with the Midshipmen.  What does it all mean?  I have no clue.  I’m just looking forward to watching yet another service academy in the postseason.  And yet another opponent trying to stop its version of the triple-option.
THE LINE: Navy, +3
THE PREDICTION: Navy 41, San Diego State 34

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Report: Texas A&M reached out to LSU DC John Chavis

LSU v Washington Getty Images

Texas A&M is currently without a defensive coordinator, a fact that may have cost the Aggies the nation’s top linebacker prospect and a five-star defensive tackle. Head coach Kevin Sumlin fired Mark Snyder on Nov. 28, and with a holiday week upon us and the Aggies’ Liberty Bowl date approaching, it now appears likely the one month mark will pass before Snyder’s replacement is hired.

That’s not to say Sumlin has sat on his hands, though.

Sumlin chased LeBron-in-a-headset free agent Will Muschamp, and Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and Florida’s D.J. Durkin were also reportedly on the Aggie wish list as well.

On Sunday night, a report emerged out of Baton Rouge through The Advocate that Texas A&M has reached out to LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis.

Chavis has coordinated the Bayou Bengals’ defense for the past six seasons and is regarded as one of the very best in the business. Since his arrival in 2009, LSU has ranked 15th, 22nd, second, seventh, 27th and 18th nationally in yards per play allowed. Before arriving in Baton Rouge, Chavis served as defensive coordinator under Philip Fulmer at Tennessee from 1995-08.

Most importantly for Sumlin, Chavis’ defenses have completely flummoxed Texas A&M’s offenses in their three meetings since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. LSU has won each of the three games while holding the Texas A&M to less than 20 points and more than 100 yards below their season average. Nabbing Chavis would be a major coup for Sumlin, bringing instant credibility to a defense that last in the SEC in total defense this season while simultaneously weakening a division rival.

Of course, they’d have to get him first. Chavis earns the third-highest salary of all college football assistants at just north of $1.3 million according to USA Today. (Snyder earned $708,000.) His contract expires after this season, and LSU has offered him a extension that Chavis has yet to sign, according to The Advocate.

However, when you’re blowing up half your stadium as part of a near half-billion dollar renovation project, in the long run busting the budget by a few hundred thousand dollars for an elite defensive coordinator is much less costly than putting a mediocre product on the field.

Texas A&M concludes its season in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia on Dec. 29 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), while LSU wraps up against Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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Ole Miss QB signee Chad Kelly arrested after scuffle with police

Chad Kelly

Chad Kelly was dismissed at Clemson this April for what Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney deemed “conduct detrimental to our program” but, after a season spent leading East Mississippi Community College to a national title, reclaimed his major college football destiny by signing with Ole Miss earlier this month.

For now.

Back home in his native Buffalo, Kelly was arrested early Sunday morning after fighting with bouncers at a local watering hole and later scuffling with police, reports the Buffalo News. According to Buffalo police, Kelly refused to leave an establishment known as Encore and punched a bouncer in the face. He then took on two bouncers and, according to the police report, said, “I’m going to go to my car and get my AK-47 and spray this place.”

Police officers later stopped a 2005 Ford F-150 pickup, where Kelly was a passenger.

“Kelly was forcibly removed from the vehicle, officers said,” writes the Buffalo News. “Police said Kelly kicked and tried to swing at officers as they removed him from the vehicle. They said he resisted getting into a patrol vehicle and struggled with staff at central booking.”

Kelly has been charged with third-degree assault, second-degree harassment, second-degree menacing, resisting arrest, fourth-degree criminal mischief, second-degree obstructing governmental administration and, along with a friend involved in the melee, third-degree criminal trespass. All charges are misdemeanors or violations, and Kelly has been released without bail.

“It remains to be seen who was the aggressor and thankfully it was a scuffle where no one was hurt,” Kelly’s attorney Thomas J. Eoannou said.

Kelly is the nephew of former Buffalo Bills great and Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. He was named the New York State Sportswriters Association Class AA Player of the Year in 2011 and was regarded as the nation’s top junior college quarterback after throwing for 3,905 yards and 47 touchdowns this fall.

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Mark Richt raids Nick Saban’s staff for strength coach

Mark Richt

They say the strength coach is the most important hire a head coach will make. Between the end of spring ball and the beginning of fall camp, the strength coach is the main point of contact players have with their football program on a daily basis. With longtime strength coach Joe Tereshinski stepping down late last month, Mark Richt has raided Nick Saban‘s strength staff at Alabama to fill his all-important head strength coach role, as Georgia announced the hiring of Mark Hocke on Sunday evening.

“Mark received some outstanding recommendations from those in the industry and is known for his high energy, ability to motivate and relate to his athletes, as well as develop them mentally, physically, spiritually and socially,” Richt said in a statement.

Hocke served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach since 2009. At Georgia, he’ll join a growing roster of Bulldog coaches with Crimson ties (get it?), including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (a former Alabama assistant), linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer (formerly Alabama’s director of player development) and offensive line coach Will Friend (a former Alabama player).

Hocke replaces Tereshinksi, the Bulldogs’ head strength coach since 2011 and a member of the Georgia program since 1982.

Prior to his arrival in Tuscaloosa, Hocke worked as an assistant coach and the head strength and conditioning coach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans.

Hocke will join the program in Charlotte before its date with No. 20 Louisville in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30. “This will allow him to be better prepared as we begin our training program in January,” Richt said.

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Gus Malzahn, new Auburn DC Will Muschamp haven’t discussed staff changes yet

In addition to the reported $1.6 million salary, one of the things that drew Will Muschamp to Auburn’s open defensive coordinator slot was the freedom granted by head coach Will Muschamp to select his own staff to work under him.

And while staff changes are likely coming for a defense that ranked 74th in yards per play allowed and 61st in scoring, they won’t happen before the Outback Bowl.

“We have not talked about it,” Malzahn told AL.com. “We’re just trying to give these guys the best plan to win the bowl game. We’ll talk about that at a later date.”

It has been widely speculated within the industry that Muschamp would like to bring Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson with him to The Plains, but a spot is not open for him at this time. Safeties coach Charlie Harbison is set to serve as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator in the Outback Bowl. And it’s possible that a few Gators assistants could look to follow their former boss to Auburn after new Florida head coach plucked Geoff Collins away from Mississippi State to coordinate his defense.

In the meantime, though, rival recruiters are pouncing as the Auburn defensive staff remains in flux. Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College safety Tony Bridges chose Ole Miss over Auburn in part because of the uncertainty around the Tigers’ staff.

“(Muschamp) looked at tape of me and said ‘I really need you,’ this and that. I have love for them because they showed me love, so I can’t say nothing bad about them,” Bridges told the Sun Herald before inking with the Rebels on Wednesday. “That being said, it was too late. I didn’t know which way the defensive coaches, like (cornerbacks coach) Melvin Smith, was he going to be there or not?”

No. 19 Auburn will meet No. 18 Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl at noon ET on New Year’s Day (ESPN2).

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Report: Jim Harbaugh not the only NFL coach Michigan is chasing

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

With the NFL’s own coaching carousel ready to start spinning in the next seven-to-10 days, we’re beginning to find out which college coaches that have caught the NFL’s eye and, apparently, the other way around. Michigan’s interest in San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is widely known, but he’s apparently not the only NFL coach that the Wolverines have an interest in.

According to a report from CBS NFL reporter Jason La Canfora, Michigan is aware that the former Wolverines quarterback is likely to remain in the NFL for the 2015 season, so interim AD Jim Hackett and company have shown interest in John HarbaughSean PaytonJason Garrett and Doug Marrone.

Of course, just because Michigan is interested in those coaches doesn’t mean those coaches are interested in Michigan.

Harbaugh has expressed no desire in leaving Baltimore, Payton already reportedly earns more than the $8 million the Wolverines are dangling in front of Jim Harbaugh, and Garrett is expected to sign an extension with the Dallas Cowboys after the season.

So it’s clear why those coaches wouldn’t be interested in Michigan, but it’s unclear why Michigan would even be interested in them. None have any recent experience coaching the college game. The only coach in that group that does have college experience is Buffalo’s Marrone, who went 25-25 in four seasons at Syracuse.

A .500 mark at Syracuse isn’t typically a stepping stone to Michigan, even if there is an NFL stop in between.

With Harbaugh reportedly using Michigan’s interest for leverage against other NFL suitors, it appears likely at this point that the Wolverines will find their next coach within the college ranks.

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Jameis Winston cleared in FSU Code of Conduct hearing

Jameis Winston; David Cornwell

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has been cleared of wrongdoing in his Code of Conduct hearing with the university, his attorney David Cornwell tweeted Sunday.

“In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for ANY of the charged violations of the Code,” he wrote.

The hearing was held Dec. 3, and a decision was not expected until next month.

Former Florida state supreme court justice Major Harding presided over the case.

“This was a complex case, and I worked hard to make sure both parties had a full and fair opportunity to present information. In sum, the preponderance of the evidence has not shown that you are responsible for any of the charge violations of the Code. Namely, I find that the evidence before me is insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof,” Harding wrote in a letter obtained by USA Today.

“As summarized in the preceding paragraphs, the evidence regarding the events that unfolded between you and (the woman) once in your room is irreconcilable. In light of all the circumstances, I do not find the credibility of one story substantially stronger than that of the other. Both have their own strengths and weaknesses. I cannot find with any confidence that the events as set forth by you, (the woman), or a particular combination thereof is more probable than not as required to find you responsible for a violation of the Code.”

While the alleged 2012 sexual assault will likely follow Winston through the civil courts and the NFL Draft process, it will not bar him from completing this season – and likely his college career.

Florida State’s Code of Conduct says that his accuser can pursue an appeal, but it would not be heard before the Jan. 12 College Football Playoff Championship. Moreover, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is widely expected to declare for the NFL Draft by the Jan. 15 deadline.

Winston and the ‘Noles will meet Oregon in the CFP semifinals at the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

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How many FBS programs are still looking for their first bowl win?

A chance at history was missed on Saturday. Western Michigan and South Alabama had respective shots at winning their first bowl games in program history, but each fell short. Western Michigan saw a comeback effort squandered by a catastrophic scoop ‘n’ score in a 38-24 loss to Air Force in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and South Alabama blew a late lead in its first ever bowl appearance, falling to Bowling Green 33-28 in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.

The losses meant the Broncos remained on and the Jaguars joined the ignominious list of eight FBS programs that are 0-fer in their only bowl trips. Warning, this list is #MACtion heavy (via Winsipedia.com):

Akron – 0-1
Ball State – 0-7
Buffalo – 0-2
Kent State – 0-2
Louisiana-Monroe – 0-1
South Alabama – 0-1
Western Kentucky – 0-1
Western Michigan – 0-6

If you want to look at the bright side, those programs are fortunate. Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Texas State and UTSA have never enjoyed the fortune of even appearing in a bowl game, and poor UAB was axed with an 0-1 bowl record.

Western Kentucky has a chance to get off this list on Wednesday as the Hilltoppers will face Central Michigan (3-4 all-time in bowl games) in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl (12 p.m. ET, ESPN).

 

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