BCS on the line for Clemson but South Carolina hoping for SEC title shot

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Clemson has lost four straight games to South Carolina. It is the longest streak without a win against their in-state rivals since going 0-5-1 between 1949 and 1954. It has not been pretty at times during this more recent skid for the Tigers. Clemson has been held to fewer than 20 points in each of the four losses to the Gamecocks and each has loss has come by double digits. This weekend No. 6 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC) hopes to bring an end to this streak of futility against their rivals from the SEC, scoring a major win for the ACC in the process while also boosting the BCS profile. No. 10 South Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SEC) is also sniffing around for a BCS spot but could have other things in mind Saturday night when they take the field.

If Clemson is going to pick up a win to improve to 12-1 on the season, they will need Tajh Boyd to have a good game. The senior has thrown for 3,248 yards, 29 touchdowns and has been intercepted seven times. He remains one of the top players in the sport at his position but most casual fans will remember are the losses. The stain from an Orange Bowl blowout at the hands of West Virginia two years ago were beginning to fade this season but then Florida State rolled in to Death Valley and decimated Boyd and the Tigers. Boyd completed 17 of 37 passes for a season-low 156 yards and one touchdown while being intercepted twice. Boyd will once again be thrown under  a microscope against South Carolina, a team he has struggled against each of the past three seasons.

In three career games against the Gamecocks, Boyd has completed 32 of 71 attempts (45.0 completion percentage, just one game with more than half of his attempts completed n 2010) for 339 yards (113 passing yards per game), two touchdowns and three interceptions. Is Boyd afraid of South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney? Well, no, but the Gamecocks have held all the tools needed to disrupt a player like Boyd and limit the production of the supporting cast from Clemson. That includes Sammy Watkins, who has been a virtual non-factor in each of the last two meetings (combining for 76 receiving yards). Clemson has the offensive firepower to overcome some of the trends of the past few meetings, but South Carolina could easily have the same sort of defensive success Florida State enjoyed against the Tigers earlier this season.

But do the Gamecocks have the offensive weaponry to blow this one wide open? The answer is both yes and no. South Carolina can take control of this game with their offense. Connor Shaw has been a rock all year long for the Gamecocks. In 11 games this year Shaw has completed 20 touchdown passes to just one interception. He is not likely to make mistakes and that will be key against Clemson. Having Mike Davis, the SEC’s leading rusher, back in the fold will always help as well. Davis had been banged up recently but is getting back on track. Davis will enter the weekend with 1,112 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

One of the biggest problems for Clemson when facing South Carolina has been holding on to the football. The Tigers have had six turnovers in the past three games, while the Gamecocks have lost just one turnover in that span. This season Clemson has a turnover margin of +10, which is on track to be the best margin since having a +13 in 2007.

While South Carolina is battling Clemson for in-state bragging rights for the next year, the focus of fans may be  split between what is happening right in front of them and another game taking place roughly 870 miles away in another Columbia. In Columbia, Missouri, about 45 minutes after the Gamecocks and Tigers kick off, the Missouri Tigers will be taking on Texas A&M. If Missouri should win that game the Tigers will move on to face either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship Game next week. However, if Texas A&M can go on the road and defeat Missouri, then it will be South Carolina making reservations for the SEC Championship game as the top team in the SEC East. To put it simply, it could be a wild night in Columbia, South Carolina.

If Missouri does win, a South Carolina win will keep the Gamecocks in the running for a BCS at-large invite. The same can be said for Clemson as well. The Tigers have already been locked out of the ACC Championship Game with Florida State making a run for the BCS championship game by way of a stop in Charlotte but a win by Clemson would make them a very attractive back-up option out of the ACC for a BCS bowl.

If you have not figured it out yet, there is a lot on the line in this year’s rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina.

Jimbo Fisher vows to change culture at Texas A&M

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If there was one thing that really seemed to put Kevin Sumlin on the hot seat during his time at Texas A&M, it was the Aggies seemingly annual collapse in the second half of the season and inability to finish games they had the potential to win. That explains some of the reason why the school ponied up to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State in a $75 million hire late last year.

While most of the outside focus on Fisher’s move to College Station has been centered on that humongous contract, there’s little question that hiring a national title-winning coach was a coup for the team. That subject was brought up again on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show Friday evening and ESPN college football analyst Booger McFarland relayed a rather interesting conversation he had with the coach earlier this year in which Fisher said something you typically don’t hear made public. You can head to the 8:18 mark (or there abouts) for the interview.

“I talked to Jimbo in Atlanta. I told Jimbo point-blank — the same thing I told you guys about Texas A&M the last several years — A&M is a soft program,” McFarland said. “Jimbo looked me in the eye and was like, ‘You know what, you’re damn right. We are soft, but I’m going to change that.’”

Something says that Fisher and the Aggies strength coaches are going to use the comments as a bit of a challenge in the weight room and during spring practice over the coming months as they lay the groundwork for the 2018 season. Even the most ardent maroon and white supporters would probably agree with the sentiment that the team went a little soft toward the end of Sumlin’s tenure but it’s not everyday you see a coach call out his new program quite like that.

Maybe it’s something in the water down there in College Station though, judging by some other comments by the school’s athletic director, but one thing is for certain — things are going to be very different at Texas A&M going forward.

Scott Frost wants Nebraska football roster to grow to 150 players or more in 2018

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In the days before you were limited to 85 scholarship players, it was not totally uncommon to see teams stock their rosters full of players and wind up in the triple-digits with close to 200 players on a team. Even after the NCAA mandated a limit of 85 scholarships, roster sizes were still not that much smaller when you factored in walk-ons and others on a squad.

It appears Scott Frost wants to get back to those sort of days in Lincoln and is apparently pushing the school to help him expand the Cornhuskers roster right into the 150 range.

“I’d like to accommodate (Frost’s) desire” to expand the roster, athletic director Bill Moos said this week in an interview with Rivals’ HuskerOnline. “But we do have that issue with Title IX” along with locker room facilities challenges, organized practice schedules, and other daily management nuts and bolts to sort through.

“Nebraska has been known for having a lot of players on the team…a lot of walk-ons. I’d like to get back to that,” Frost had said on Signing Day earlier in the month. “The best thing Coach (Tom) Osborne did was have everybody practice… and part of that is what led to the development of players and helped walk-ons and young players get better faster and get on the field and help the team. I think that’s an asset that Nebraska can have if we’re willing to expand the roster.”

HuskerOnline details some of the compliance and budgetary challenges that going to 150 would entail but it certainly sounds like the school is making the effort to beef the numbers up. The Cornhuskers are well known in college football history for their walk-on program and roughly 10-15 walk-ons per class would apparently help them land right around Frost’s ideal roster size after factoring in the 85 full-scholarship players he would recruit.

Interestingly, going to 150 would allow the program to pass Michigan for the Big Ten’s biggest roster. The Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh are reportedly sitting at around 135 players after the 2017 season while most of the other conference’s schools are mostly around the 120 mark with a few exceptions. Title IX is not surprisingly the biggest obstacle for teams but it seems like some can manage things with no issue.

Frost was hired this offseason to help take Nebraska back to their perch atop college football and it seems like he is certainly attempting to do that in more ways than one when it comes to Big Red.

Purdue hires Utah State’s Mark Tommerdahl as special teams and tight ends coach

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Jeff Brohm is bringing in longtime coaching veteran Mark Tommerdahl to fill out his staff and serve as Purdue’s special teams and tight ends coach.

The Boilermakers announced the move on Saturday afternoon as Tommerdahl heads to West Lafayette after spending just a season at Utah State where he also coached running backs and ran the Aggies’ special teams. While his stay in Logan was brief, Tommerdahl has been all over the country in 34 years as a coach and is highly regarded for his work in the kicking game.

Tommerdahl has plenty of prior Power Five coaching experience and spent four seasons with Sonny Dykes at Cal where he coached three different position groups and served as assistant head coach. Prior to that he also had stops at Louisiana Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, TCU and several other schools.

The move to bring in Tommerdahl fills the spot on the Boilermakers’ staff that was left when former Houston coach Tony Levine left after one season with the school to pursue opportunities outside of the coaching profession. Brohm’s 10th assistant Kevin Wolthausen was also given special teams responsibilities when he was elevated to a full-time role so it’s possible the team is really beefing up their emphasis on the third phases of the game with the two new coaches splitting duties when it comes to special teams.

Either way, after a surprising 2017 season that ended with a bowl game victory it’s pretty clear that Brohm is not just sitting back when it comes to his coaching staff and is bringing in some veteran names to help the team take the next step in 2018.

Iowa State OC Tom Manning reportedly leaving Ames for Indianapolis Colts staff

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After one of the most successful seasons in recent memory at Iowa State, it appears head coach Matt Campbell will not be able to keep the band together for another run.

Campbell confirmed to The Des Moines Register on Saturday morning that offensive coordinator Tom Manning was leaving Ames and will be taking a job in the NFL. The paper later was able to confirm that the team in question will be the Indianapolis Colts for a spot on Frank Reich’s new staff. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg says Manning will be the team’s tight ends coach.

“I’m really happy and proud of him,” Campbell told the Register.

Manning has been with Campbell for years and the two actually played (and coached) together at famed D-III power Mount Union in the early 2000’s. Both were on the same staff at Toledo and Manning served as offensive line coach both there and at Iowa State. As offensive coordinator in 2017 he guided the Cyclones to a bit of an offensive renaissance despite relying on backup quarterback Kyle Kempt for most of the season, helping the team produce the third most points per game in school history while ranking in the top five in both total yards and passing.

ISU memorably upset Oklahoma in Norman and capped off an eight-win campaign in the Liberty Bowl with a victory over a ranked Memphis team.

The move leaves two openings on Campbell’s staff for 2018 but the Register notes that graduate assistant Jeff Myers is a possibility for the offensive line job and special teams analyst Joe Houston could be the team’s potential 10th assistant coach.