They are Legends: Spartans clinch division, B1G trip to Indy

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And now it’s officially official.

The front-runner for the better part of a month or more, Michigan State finally put the finishing touches on its run at the Big Ten Legends division title with a punishing 30-6 win over free-falling — and winless in conference play — Northwestern.  The division title is the Spartans’ second in three years since the conference split the league in half beginning with the 2011 season.

It was also MSU’s seventh straight win since suffering its lone loss of the season against Notre Dame in Week 4, and, as has been the case more times than not, it was a dominating defense and a sprinkling of an ever-improving offense that led the way.

That Spartans’ defense, ranked at or near the top in nearly every major statistical category, held the limping Wildcats to a pair of first-half field goals while forcing three second-half turnovers.  Showing they are somewhat human, however, MSU allowed more than 300 yards of total offense for the second straight game; entering last weekend, they hadn’t allowed a single team to top that mark the first nine games.

Offensively, running back Jeremy Langford came within a yard of matching his career-high, rushing for 150 yards and scoring two touchdowns.  The junior’s career-high was 151 yards set a week ago against Nebraska.  Connor Cook was brutally efficient, completing 16-of-23 passes for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns while playing a pick-free game.  One of those scoring tosses was an 87-yarder to Bennie Fowler.

The win officially ended any hopes Minnesota entertained of reaching the title game, which had involved the Gophers winning and the Spartans losing their last two.  Those two teams will wrap up the regular-season portion of their schedules in East Lansing next Saturday.

As for MSU’s opposition in the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis the first Saturday of December, that could (should) very well be decided in a couple of hours.  If Ohio State beats Indiana in its game that kicks off at 3:30 ET this afternoon, the Buckeyes will clinch the Leaders division.

If the inexplicable happens and the 4-6 Hoosiers snap the Buckeyes’ nation’s best winning streak, MSU would have to wait until next weekend to start game planning for a specific opponent.  Wisconsin, which lost to Ohio State earlier this year, would slide into its third straight conference title game if it wins out and the Buckeyes lose its last two.  An OSU win against either Indiana or Michigan in The Game would clinch the division for the Buckeyes and leave the Badgers on the outside looking in based on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Oregon reportedly poaches Wazzu assistant Jim Mastro as Ducks’ new running backs coach

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Alex Grinch isn’t the only member of Mike Leach’s staff who is ticketed out of Pullman this offseason.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Oregon had poached Washington State assistant Jim Mastro to be the Ducks’ new running backs coach and run game coordinator.

Mastro has been with the Cougars since joining Leach’s initial staff at Wazzu back in 2012 and has quite a bit of experience out west, including 11 seasons at Nevada and a year at UCLA. He replaces Donte Pimpleton, who followed former Oregon coach Willie Taggart to Florida State several weeks ago.

Interestingly, this is the third straight offseason that the Ducks have poached an assistant from their Pac-12 North rivals. Quarterbacks coach David Yost left for Eugene back in 2015 while Taggart hired defensive line coach Joe Salave’a last year. Mastro should have plenty to work with upon arrival with senior Tony Brooks-James and youngster Darrian Felix likely leading the way on the ground.

Kevin Sumlin brings familiar Texas A&M face with him to Arizona’s coaching staff

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Kevin Sumlin is still sorting out his new staff at Arizona but reportedly has his special teams coordinator locked up and it’s a familiar face from his previous stop in College Station.

While Texas A&M’s former special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was hired for the same position at Alabama, Sumlin has hired his No. 2 in Jeremy Springer to be the Wildcats’ new special teams coordinator, a source told Sports Illustrated this week. The trio worked together for three years with the Aggies as Springer assisted Banks in the crucial third phase of the game.

Springer was originally ticketed to join another former Sumlin assistant in David Beaty as a staffer at Kansas but instead will head west to the desert. His most recent formal title was quality control special teams/tight ends assistant at Texas A&M but he’ll be an on-field coach in Tucson.

Springer played linebacker for UTEP and is still pretty fresh-faced in the coaching profession having graduated from the school in 2011.

Tennessee still trying to remove Butch Jones billboard at Neyland Stadium… months after he was fired by the Vols

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It’s been nearly two weeks since the national championship game which means that Jeremy Pruitt has been in Knoxville as the new Tennessee head coach for some time now leading the program. Despite that fact, there’s still a visible reminder every day when he drives into work of the previous regime that was in charge of the Vols.

That’s because there’s a giant 35-by-30-foot picture of former head coach Butch Jones still up on the outside of Neyland Stadium… over two months after he was fired by Tennessee. According to the Times Free Press, the picture could even be up past signing day in February as the rather slow change is made for an item that isn’t as easy for the school to alter as the media guide is.

“That’s not an easy process,” athletic director Phillip Fulmer told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR. “There’s mechanical things involved to get that done. It’s not just, ‘Let’s take down a picture off the wall or a graphic.’ We’re working through that.

“It is important to us, because it is important to reflect what we’re doing. It’ll be done in due time. I’ve heard the same thing from the chancellor. She wants me to speed it up, too. We will. We’ll get there.”

Funny enough, the giant picture of Jones (flanked by UT legends Reggie White and Robert Neyland) replaced an image of Fulmer from when the team won the BCS title 20 years ago. Something says they might revert back to that look with their now-AD until Pruitt can establish himself with the program over the next few years to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.

As the Times Free Press notes, it took Florida State just a week to scrub Jimbo Fisher‘s likeness from Doak Campbell Stadium but it might be three months before the Vols can do the same with their coaching change. It may not delight the fan base to see Jones some more but this is clearly one area on Rocky Top that is decidedly not moving at SEC-speed at the moment.

Arkansas DC John Chavis deal with Razorbacks reportedly includes expensive option after 2018

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Chad Morris’ first big hire upon taking over the head coaching spot at Arkansas was to bring in veteran SEC defensive coordinator John Chavis. If the pair is still together beyond the 2018 season though, it will be an expensive combination for the school based on the contract of the latter.

USA Today’s Steve Berkowitz obtained the details of Chavis new deal with the school on Friday night and notes that the longtime coach will make $995,000 for the 2018 season in Fayetteville.

While that figure for the 2018 campaign is down sharply from the $1.6 million figure he made in 2017 in the same role at Texas A&M (third highest for an assistant in the country), it should be noted that the Aggies are still on the hook for nearly $700,000 as a result of a one-year extension he signed prior to last season — resulting in the six-figure salary at Arkansas instead of hitting the million dollar mark.

If Chavis exercises the option for 2019 though, he’ll be back in the top 10 highest paid assistants once again but with Arkansas ponying up the full amount. Not bad work if you can get it after allowing 30.7 points per game the prior season.

Hopefully for the Razorbacks though, the results are more in line with the salary for Chavis and company going forward.