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.

Arkansas kicker Cole Hedlund reportedly transfers to North Texas

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And you can pardon the whole of the state of Arkansas if they let out a collective “thank goodness.”

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, Brett Vito of the Denton Record-Chronicle is reporting that Cole Hedlund is transferring to North Texas.  After redshirting as a true freshman in 2014 at Arkansas, Hedlund spent the next three seasons as a placekicker for the Razorbacks.

The Argyle, Tex., native opted to transfer from UA for his final season of eligibility.  He’s the youngest son of UNT women’s soccer coach John Hedlund.

For his career with the Razorbacks, Hedlund hit on 14 of his 24 field goal attempts.  He also connected on all 91 extra point attempts.  His best season came in 2015 when he led the team in scoring with 85 points.

The past season, however, was a rough one.  After missing both field goal attempts in a Sept. 9 loss to TCU — the misses came from 20 and 23 yards out — Hedlund never attempted another kick for the Razorbacks the rest of the season.

“It was basically a PAT, and it was a perfect protection and a perfect snap. It’s inexcusable,” then-head coach Bret Bielema said at the time.

Longtime BYU defensive assistant Steve Kaufusi steps down

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A constant on BYU’s defensive staff for nearly two decades has taken himself out of the football program’s equation.

The Cougars announced Friday that Steve Kaufusi has stepped down from his post as linebackers coach.  Per the school, Kaufusi’s departure was triggered by his desire to pursue other unspecified interests.

Kaufusi, whose wife Michelle is the mayor of Provo and has two sons who will play for the Cougars this season, had spent the past 16 seasons with BYU.  From 2002-16, he coached the defensive line; he took over linebackers in 2017 and spent one season overseeing that position.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to coach at BYU for the past 16 seasons,” Kaufusi said. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to represent the University and everything it stands for. I will always be a Cougar and look forward to watching my sons play at BYU.”

“Anyone who knows Steve knows he is an exceptional coach and mentor to young men, which you can see in the players he has coached over the years and also in his own family,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I wish Steve nothing but the best for his future.”

In tandem with the Kaufusi announcement, the program also confirmed that Preston Hadley has been hired.  Hadley, who played defensive back for the Cougars and coached at Weber State the past two seasons, will coach safeties in his return.

Ed Lamb, who was responsible for safeties, will take over Kaufusi’s linebackers.  All other coaches on the defensive side of the ball will maintain their current positions.

Michigan State promotes Mike Tressel to DC, adds ex-Kent State HC as DBs coach

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Mark Dantonio looked inside and out of his football program to fill some holes in his Michigan State staff.

Nearly two weeks ago, Harlon Barnett left as MSU’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach to take a job at Florida State.  That left Dantonio with two openings, one of which the head coach closed Friday by promoting Mike Tressel to defensive coordinator.

Tressel and Barnett had served as co-coordinators the past three seasons; the nephew of former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel will now serve as the Spartans’ solo coordinator moving forward.

“Mike has done a tremendous job working with the defense,” said Dantonio in a statement. “He’s been deeply involved with everything with the defense since we first arrived here, and has helped coach some championship defenses that have been ranked consistently among the best in the nation, year in and year out. He did a great job as co-coordinator the past three years. He’s certainly earned this opportunity and I think he’ll do an outstanding job.”

To replace Barnett as defensive backs coach, Dantonio turned to Paul Haynes.  The past five years, Haynes was the head coach at Kent State before being dismissed at the end of the 2017 regular season.

This serves as a homecoming of sorts for Haynes as well.  From 2003-04, he was the defensive backs coach for the Spartans under John Smith.

The 48-year-old Haynes has also been a secondary coach at Arkansas (2012), Ohio State (2005-10), Louisville (2002) and Kent State (1999).

“We’re very, very excited about Paul,” said Dantonio. “He’s coached here before so he’s got a Spartan background. He was secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, so he’s coached on the highest level with the secondary. He was a defensive coordinator at Arkansas as well. He’s been a head coach at Kent State, so I think that gives him a big picture feel. I think he’s an excellent recruiter. He’s a dynamic person as well, so we’re excited to have him on campus.”

Willie Taggart finalizes first Florida State coaching staff

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Exactly 45 days after being announced as Florida State’s new head coach, Willie Taggart has put the finishing touches on his first Seminoles staff.

Friday night, FSU confirmed that Taggart has completed his 10-man staff with the additions of five new assistants.  It was reported this week that Maryland offensive coordinator Walt Bell would be taking the same job at FSU; the school confirmed as much today, with Bell also taking over as quarterbacks coach.

The other four hires consisted of Greg Frey (offensive line/running-game coordinator), David Kelly (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator), Mark Snyder (defensive ends) and Alonzo Hampton (special teams coordinator).

That fivesome joins the other five assistants previously announced:

  • Harlon Barnett, defensive coordinator and defensive back
  • Odell Haggins, associate head coach and defensive tackles
  • Raymond Woodie, linebackers
  • Telly Lockette, tight ends
  • Donte’ Pimpleton, running backs

Haggins is the lone holdover from Jimbo Fisher‘s last staff.

“From the beginning of this process, my goal was to bring in the best coaches for our program and I believe we have done that,” Taggart said. “This group will do a great job of recruiting, developing, coaching and mentoring our student-athletes to reach their highest potential. I’m excited for the next few weeks as we are finalizing our 2018 signing class and then working with our team as we prepare for spring practice.”