Ameer Abdullah

Michigan State one win from being crowned Legends

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It’s six down, one to go for Michigan State.

Fighting to maintain control of the divisional driver’s seat, the Spartans went into Lincoln and did just that.  With its punishing, nationally-ranked defense turning Nebraska into a turnover-prone offense, the Spartans staked its claim to a 41-28 win.  The name of this game, as is ofttimes the case when MSU is involved, was defense in general and turnovers specifically.  Oh, the turnovers.

The Spartans forced a soul-crushing five Cornhusker turnovers.  The MSU offense was then able to turn the myriad gaffes into 24 of its 41 points.  It was, in essence, the game, set and match.

The Cornhuskers were actually able to move the ball on the Spartans, something that’s been few and far between for every team on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage in 2013.  The country’s top-ranked defense against the run hadn’t given up more than 100 yards on the ground to any team this season; the ‘Huskers were able to pound out 182 yards, including 123 from Ameer Abdullah.  They hadn’t given up more than 300 yards in total offense in a single game; they allowed 392 on the day.

Again, though, the turnovers.  Seemingly every time Nebraska appeared to be gaining momentum, an interception here or a fumble there… and there… and there… and there quashed any headway the ‘Huskers were making.  And, as a result, officially ended any shot Nebraska had at a return trip to Indianapolis.

On the other hand, and with the win, the Spartans are now a perfect 6-0 in Big Ten play.  It also means that, regardless of what the other teams in the division do from here on out, MSU needs to win just one of its two remaining conference games to claim the Legends title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

Next Saturday, Michigan State will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern (0-6 in conference), then return home for the regular-season finale against Minnesota.  The Gophers, on a bye this weekend, are at 4-2 in league play and represent the only team with a shot to catch the Spartans.  It’s an outside shot at best, to be blunt, as the Spartans would have to drop their next two while the Gophers would need to beat Wisconsin and MSU in back-to-back weeks.  Such a scenario would leave Minnesota and Michigan State tied at 6-2, with the former owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Nebraska could also finish at 6-2 by winning out, but would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to both Minnesota and Michigan State and would be knocked out of a three-way tiebreaker per B1G protocol:

b. If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.

  1. The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other

The two-team tiebreaking procedure also means that, if Minnesota beats Wisconsin… and Michigan State loses to Northwestern… the Nov. 30 meeting between the two would be for all of the, um, whatever snack for which Indianapolis is famous.

In other words, and barring something extraordinarily unexpected, it will be Michigan State vs. Ohio State Dec. 7 for the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.  And, yes, I probably just jinxed one or both of the teams.  You’re welcome.

Ex-Rutgers QB transferring to San Diego State

PISCATAWAY, NJ - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Chris Laviano #5 of Rutgers attempts a pass during the second quarter against Illinois on October 15, 2016 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Illinois defeated Rutgers 24-7. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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It appears one of Rutgers’ transferring quarterbacks has found a new home.

In late November, Chris Laviano became one of three Scarlet Knights signal-callers who decided to transfer from Chris Ash‘s football program.  Over the weekend, as relayed by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Laviano has decided to continue his collegiate playing career at San Diego State.

As Laviano would be coming to the Mountain West program as a graduate transfer, he’d be eligible to play immediately in 2017. This coming season will be his final year of eligibility.

Laviano had started 18 consecutive games for the Scarlet Knights until he was benched in October of last year.

In 2015, Laviano completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 2,247 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The completion percentage was the best for an RU player since 2008, while the yardage was good for eighth in school history.

Overall, he tossed 21 touchdowns and 15 picks during his time in Piscataway.

Record-breaking QB one of two coaches hired by New Mexico State

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Doug Martin‘s 2017 on-field coaching staff will have a decidedly familiar feel to it, even as it’s in some ways brand-new.

New Mexico State announced that two coaches have been hired by Martin, Chase Holbrook and Kai Brown.  The former will serve as tight ends coach, the latter as defensive ends coach.

Holbrook spent the 2016 season as a quality control coach for Mike Leach at Washington State.  A former NMSU quarterback, he still owns the school’s single-season and career records for passing, passing attempts, completions, touchdowns, total offense and total touchdowns.

Brown was a graduate assistant the past three seasons for the football program.

“We are really excited about Chase coming back to New Mexico State,” Martin said. “Having a former great quarterback that has his name written all over the Aggie record book will have a huge impact on us taking that next step. Chase really believes and cares deeply about the football program here. To have a coach of his talent join our staff makes us a better program immediately. …

“Kai has been a very loyal hard working coach for us as a GA and it gives me great pride to add him to our staff in a full time role. He brings a lot of enthusiasm to our program and has a great relationship with our players.”

This will be both coaches’ first foray into full-time coaching responsibilities at the FBS level.

Cal turns to Fresno State to complete Justin Wilcox’s staff

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 14:  A member of the California Golden Bears spirit squad waves a team flag while standing next to the Bears' mascot in front of the Michigan State Spartans crowd on September 14, 2002 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.  California defeated Michigan State 46-22.  (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Getty Images)
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In late December, Fresno State hired Tony Tuioti as part of Jeff Tedford‘s first coaching staff with the Mountain West program.  Two months later, Tedford’s former Pac-12 employer has poached said staff.

By way of a press release, Cal announced that Tuioti has been hired as Justin Wilcox‘s outside linebackers coach.  Tedford served as Cal’s head coach from 2002-12; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno’s head coach for five seasons before being fired and replaced by Tedford, is now Wilcox’s defensive coordinator with the Golden Bears.

“Tony has a tremendous resume that showcases his diverse skill set and abilities both on and off the field,” Wilcox said in a statement. “Not only is he an excellent coach, but the experience he has as a director of player personnel will be a tremendous benefit to us in the structuring and organization of our recruiting operation. Finding someone with a skill set as unique and diverse as Tony’s is challenging. We are fortunate that we have found that in Tony and are looking forward to his contributions to our program.”

“Working at Cal for a coach like Justin Wilcox was an opportunity I could not pass up,” a statement from Tuioti began. “I have a tremendous feeling about the positive direction Cal is headed, and I really wanted to be a part of that and contribute all I could to a football program with tremendous potential.”

In 2016, Tuioti worked as a football staffer at Michigan.  His last on-field job at the collegiate level came at Hawaii (2012-13, linebackers coach; 2010-11, defensive line).

Georgia raising money to build Devon Gales a home

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It’s been close to a year and a half since Southern football player Devon Gales fractured his C6 vertebrae when covering a kick at Georgia. While the two sides will forever be linked, Georgia has gone above and beyond its duties to help improve his life.

In addition to regularly visiting him in the hospital and paying for his parents’ travel to Georgia, the Bulldogs will now raise funds to build him a house.

Gales received an NCAA Sportsmanship Award at the Bulldogs’ basketball game on Saturday, and it was announced that the UGAAA will launch a “Drive to Build a Dawg House” for Gales and his family.

“Anybody can just their prayer for you and send you on your way, but they didn’t. They took me as one of their kids, not just as another player, but as one of their children,” Gales said.

To contibute, text (707) 204-1707 to donate $5 toward the fund.