Stanford off to great start, but Arizona State hanging around

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The first half of Saturday’s Pac-12 title game between No. 7 Stanford and No. 11 Arizona State looked at lot like the last time these two teams played.

Way back on Sept. 27, the Cardinal jumped out to a 29-0 first-half lead on their way to a 42-28 victory over the Sun Devils.

This time around, Stanford took a 28-7 lead but couldn’t quite deliver the knockout blow, as ASU kept close and went into the break down, 28-14.

The often-sputtering Cardinal offense looked sharp, totaling 301 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tyler Gaffney already has his ninth 100-yard game of the year with 107 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. His 69-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play opened the scoring. Kevin Hogan was 7 of 12 for 106 yards and also added 33 yards on seven carries.

Outside of a couple big plays by D.J. Foster, ASU’s offense looked like it was not ready for prime time. Foster’s 51-yard touchdown run evened the score early in the first quarter and his 65-yard catch and run of a Taylor Kelly pass gave the Sun Devils hope (those were the two longest plays against Stanford this year, by the way), but ASU will need to step it up a notch in the second half. The last time the two teams played, the Sun Devils scored 28 second-half points, so there’s a chance they could make a game of it yet.

But if ASU can’t stop Gaffney, it’s in for a long night. If nothing changes, Stanford will be heading to its second-straight Rose Bowl.

Former Georgia QB Jacob Park transferring from Iowa State too

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Jacob Park‘s winding collegiate football journey has taken yet another twist.

The quarterback confirmed to the Des Moines Register that he has decided to transfer from Iowa State and continue his playing career elsewhere.  The football program has granted Park, who will be leaving as a graduate, a release from his scholarship, although there’s no word on what if any restrictions were attached.

The development comes a little over two months after Park took a sudden leave of absence due to what were described as “unspecified medical concerns.” Park confirmed to the Register that he was facing a one-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana prior to his sabbatical.

From the newspaper’s report:

He said the challenge of balancing school, football, fatherhood and living with the mother of his child became overwhelming. Park also said he failed a drug test because of marijuana usage and was facing a one-game suspension that was supposed to have been served against Oklahoma on Oct. 7.

Park said he talked to Iowa State’s staff about his marijuana usage. The night before the suspension was supposed to be served, Iowa State announced Park had taken an indefinite leave from the team to “work through some personal health issues.”

“It was not something that was very easy to deal with when you have so much high-pressure situations that you’re being put into as I do,” Park said Monday. “And it’s a coping mechanism that I understand now is not acceptable and that I’m still working on this to this day.

Park had started the first four games of the 2017 season for the Cyclones in his second year in Ames.  In his first season at ISU, he became the full-time starter in the latter portion of the 2016 season.  During his time with the Cyclones, he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,971 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.  He also ran for a pair of touchdowns in that span.

If the move on comes to fruition, Park will be working on his fourth collegiate program in less than four years.

A four-star member of Georgia’s 2014 recruiting class, Park was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country; the No. 4 player at any position in the state of South Carolina; and the No. 229 player overall according to Rivals.com.  Park worked mainly with the scout team during his only season with the Bulldogs.

In mid-June of 2015, it was confirmed that Park would be transferring from Georgia.  After spending the 2015 season at the junior college level, Park transferred to ISU in February of 2016.

Greg Schiano was set to make nearly $28 million over six years as Tennessee’s head coach

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An ugly, very public backlash ended up causing some significant damage to Greg Schiano‘s bank account.

247Sports.com obtained the full Memorandum of Understanding between Schiano and the University of Tennessee, with the MOU revealing that UT was set to sign the Ohio State defensive coordinator to a six-year contract worth a total of $27 million; ESPN.com puts the number closer to $28 million. Schiano would’ve been paid $4.4 million in his first year as the Vols head coach.

However, Schiano was never officially hired as UT’s head coach after a certain segment of the fanbase used social media and other means to very vociferously object to the hiring based on Schiano’s (flimsy) connection to the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. That backlash forced the university to reverse course on Schiano, setting the stage for an embarrassing series of snubs — and the athletic director working on a deal with Mike Leach one night only to be fired the next day — over the next couple of weeks before settling on Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as its next head coach.

It was reported back in late November that UT chancellor Beverly Davenport never signed the MOU, casting doubt on Schiano’s ability to seek any type of legal relief over the university backing out of the deal. It was further clarified earlier this month that the MOU, which was signed by Schiano as well as then-athletic director John Currie, needed to be signed by the university’s Chief Financial Officer to be valid; CFO David Miller never put his Herbie Hancock on the document, seemingly making it invalid if Schiano’s side decided to pursue a court case.

Should Schiano seek legal recourse through a lawsuit and ultimately win, though, it could prove to be very costly for UT. From ESPN:

If [Schiano] believes he was in fact hired, and then fired without cause, he would be owed 75 percent of the contract, which would equal $20.7 million.

Pruitt will make $3.8 million in his first year as UT’s head coach. Schiano made $700,000 (pre-bonus) as OSU’s coordinator this season, and is expected to get a bump in pay for 2018 that should get him to at least $800,000.

Three DBs among four who have left Syracuse since end of season

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Especially when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse’s roster has seen a significant amount of attrition over the past couple of weeks.

Since the end of the 2017 regular season 17 days ago, a total of four players have left the Orange football program. Three of those who have taken their leave are defensive backs — Juwan Dowels, Daivon Ellison, Cordell Hudson — while the other is defensive tackle Kayton Samuels (pictured).

Dowels and Samuels were the latest to part ways, with both announcing on social media their decisions to transfer over the weekend.

Both of those two, along with Hudson, are leaving the Orange as graduate transfers. That transferring trio would all be eligible to play in 2018 if they move on to another FBS program.

Samuels played in 34 games during his time with the ‘Cuse, while Dowels played in 24. The latter’s 2016 season was cut short because of a knee injury in Week 2.

SMU confirms hiring of Sonny Dykes as new head coach

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After a year away from the head-coaching game, Sonny Dykes is back in it.

Not long after reports had surfaced earlier Monday, SMU confirmed a short time ago that Dykes has been named as the football program’s new head football coach.  Dykes replaces Chad Morris, who left for the same job at Arkansas late last week.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be introduced as the Head Coach at SMU,” a lengthy statement from Dykes began. “This is home and this is a program I grew up watching. I watched Mustang legends compete and I could always see myself putting on that iconic pony. Today, I’m proud to do just that.

“Coach Morris did great things here and I am fortunate that I have been selected to take the foundation Chad and his staff put in place and take it to a new level. And, make no mistake – That is what we plan to do.”

Prior to 2017, Dykes had spent the previous seven seasons as a head coach — four at Cal (2013-16) and three at Louisiana Tech (2010-12).  After being fired by the former school, he was considered a candidate for the offensive coordinator position at Arizona State.  Family issues, however, made TCU a better fit as he spent this past season as an offensive analyst with the Horned Frogs.

A native of Texas who played college baseball for Texas Tech, Dykes has gone 41-45 as a head coach — 22-15 at Louisiana Tech, 19-30 at Cal.

In Morris’ third season at SMU, the 7-5 Mustangs are bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012.