Urban Meyer

Buckeyes (barely) ahead of Auburn in coaches’ poll

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And so it begins.

The USA Today coaches’ poll was released early Sunday afternoon and, as expected, there was important movement at the top of the rankings.  The kind of movement that will, once again, make Ohio State sweat.

The Buckeyes, thanks to top-ranked Alabama’s first loss of the season, did the expected and moved into the No. 2 hole behind new No. 1 Florida State.  That object in the mirror, however, is much closer than they would like for it to appear.

Auburn, which stunned the Tide with no time left Saturday night, is now at No. 3, just 25 points behind the Buckeyes.  Last week, the Tigers had been No. 5 and 160 points behind the Buckeyes.  The initial closeness in the immediate aftermath of the Tide’s loss seemingly sets up a scenario in which Ohio State, if it struggles in a close win in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, could possibly be leapfrogged by Auburn if the Tigers bounce Missouri in impressive and blowout fashion in the SEC championship game.

The Buckeyes did claim four first-place votes this week.  The Seminoles were given the other 58.

Mizzou moved up one No. 5 in the coaches’ Top 25, 147 points behind OSU and 122 behind AU.  That appears to be too much ground for the Tigers to make up in the chase for a spot in the BCS title game, even with a drubbing of the West Tigers next weekend in Atlanta.

The Tide, which could still be in the BCS title game mix if both FSU and OSU lose next Saturday, slipped three spots to No. 4.  The rest of the Top Ten is rounded out by No. 6 Oklahoma State (No. 7 last week), T-No. 7 Baylor (No. 8), T-No. 7 South Carolina (No. 9), No. 9 Michigan State (No. 11) and No. 10 Stanford (No. 10).

Duke made one the biggest moves up in the poll, climbing from No. 24 to No. 20.  It’s the Blue Devils’ best-ever standing in the coaches’ poll.  That jump was trumped by only Arizona State, which moved from No. 18 to No. 13.

Fresno State dropped nine spots (to No. 22) after its first loss of the season, while Clemson (No. 11) and Wisconsin (No. 21) tumbled seven each positions each.

Undefeated Northern Illinois, which has its sights set on busting the BCS, is at No. 18, up from No. 20 a week ago.  If the Huskies can finish in the top-16 in the final BCS rankings — they were No. 14 last Sunday — and ahead of No. 17 UCF (if they win the AAC), NIU will make it back-to-back BCS bowl appearances.

Texas at No. 24 is the only new addition to Week 14’s Top 25, while USC dropped out after entering the weekend No. 23.

Coaches' Poll Week 14

Report: ex-USC QB Max Browne to visit Pitt

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Max Browne #4 of the USC Trojans looks to pass the ball against the Utah State Aggies at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 10, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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The scramble to land graduate transfers at the most important position on a football field is slowly beginning to heat up.

According to a report from 247Sports.com, former USC quarterback Max Browne will pay an official visit to Pittsburgh this weekend. 2016 starter Nathan Peterman‘s eligibility has expired, which will open up a competition for the Panthers beginning in the spring.

It’s also expected that the former USC signal-caller will visit North Carolina at some point in the not-too-distant future, although that is likely dependent on whether current Tar Heels starter Mitch Trubisky leaves early for the NFL as some expect.

A Notre Dame grad transfer with starting experience, Malik Zaire, has also been connected to both of the ACC schools. Wisconsin could have an interest in Browne and Zaire as well.

A five-star 2013 signee, Browne confirmed months of speculation a week ago that he would indeed be transferring from the Trojans.

Browne began the 2016 season as the starter, but lost his job to Sam Darnold after the Trojans stumbled out of the gate at 1-2. With Darnold under center, USC finished the regular season on an 8-1 run and won their last eight after losing Darnold’s first start by four points to Utah.

Browne spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as Cody Kessler’s primary backup.

Mizzou backup QB Marvin Zanders tweets he’s transferring

COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 11: Truman the Tiger leads the Mizzou fans in cheers while the Missouri Tigers take on the Georgia Bulldogs on October 11, 2014 at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Kyle Rivas/Getty Images)
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It looks as if Drew Lock will have a new backup when the 2017 season rolls around.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday night, Marvin Zanders announced that he has decided to transfer out of the Missouri football program. The redshirt sophomore said he’s leaving to pursue other opportunities that will further his education and playing career, although where that will be is still to be determined.

Zanders was a three-star 2014 signee who played in just one game in 2015 after redshirting as a true freshman. As Lock’s primary backup in 2016, Zanders played in a total of eight games. In limited action, he completed 10 of 12 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 198 yards and a pair of scores.

The decision of Zanders to move on leaves the Mizzou quarterback cupboard somewhat bare at the moment.

Mark Dantonio won’t lose long-time assistant to head-coaching job at Div. II school

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 12: Head coach Mark Dantonio of the Michigan State Spartans leads his team onto the field before a college football game against the against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Spartan Stadium on November 12, 2016 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
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At least for now and when it comes to one particular assistant, Mark Dantonio won’t have a hole to fill on his Michigan State coaching staff.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Spartans offensive line coach Mark Staten was one of five finalists for the head-coaching job at Div. II Northern Michigan. On his Facebook page Thursday, by way of ESPN.com, Staten indicated that he will be staying at MSU.

Left unsaid is whether Staten withdrew from the search process because he wanted to remain in East Lansing or if he became aware the program had decided to go in a direction that didn’t include him.

Decision was made after a lot of prayer, talking with family, friends and mentors. I appreciate all of those involved as I will continue to battle on as a Spartan. God Bless and Go Green!

Staten has been a part of Dantonio’s coaching staff for the past 13 seasons, the first three at Cincinnati and the last 10 at MSU. He’s been the Spartans’ line coach for the past five years.

Charlie Strong, Temple have reportedly spoken as USF talk heats up

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 11:  Head coach Charlie Strong of the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl on October 11, 2014 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Temple lost its head coach to an FBS program in the state of Texas. Could the Owls find his replacement in the form of the former head coach at that state’s flagship university? Or, as is looking more and more likely, could they “lose” him to a fellow AAC school?

According to at least one report the former could be the case as the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing a source familiar with the situation, reported that Strong and Temple officials have spoken about the vacant head-coaching job. How strong, so to speak, the former Louisville and Texas head coach’s interest is in the AAC football program is something the source couldn’t gauge, the Inquirer noted.

That said, “[t]hey had a conversation with Strong, that is a fact,” the source said.

The strongest, so to speak, competition for Strong may very well be coming from USF, with Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders reporting that “[i]t is believed that USF has already begun negotiating a contract with Strong.” A subsequent report from the Tampa Bay Times noted that USF spent Thursday in heavy pursuit of Strong.

The 56-year-old coach had previously been connected to the USF job, and his deep ties to the fertile recruiting grounds in the state that makes a marriage almost a no-brainer for both sides.

Strong was fired by the Longhorns in November after going just 16-21 during his three seasons in Austin. UT currently owes Strong roughly $11.2 million as part of his buyout. Per the terms of his contract, Strong must make “reasonable efforts” to obtain another job. If he does, USA Today wrote, “Texas’ obligation to him will be offset by an amount equal to 50% of the total compensation Strong receives from his new job.”

Matt Rhule, who left Temple for Baylor earlier this week, was paid just north of $1 million for his final season with the Owls, a figure that was eighth amongst AAC coaches. Willie Taggart, who created the USF vacancy by leaving for Oregon, was the fifth-highest paid coach in the conference at $1.7 million.

Strong’s salary final salary of $5.2 million was sixth nationally.