WHO: 7-5 Michigan (Big Ten) vs. 7-5 Kansas State (Big 12)
WHAT: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (25th year)
WHERE: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz.
WHEN: Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET
WHY: It seems like these two teams are headed in opposite directions. Kansas State won five of its last six and rebounded from a 2-4 start to finish up as one of the Big 12’s hottest teams. Michigan started 5-0 and then lost five of its last seven.
The Wildcats are looking for their first bowl win since 2002. They’ll rely on the two quarterbacks to get them there: Jake Waters is an adept passer (2,198 yards, 15 touchdowns) who has decent mobility while Daniel Sams is a powerful runner (784 yards, 11 touchdowns) who throws it on occasion. Add in diminutive running back John Hubert’s 968 rushing yards and wide out Tyler Lockett’s 71 catches for 1,146 receiving and this is an offense that can put up points in a hurry (it scored at least 31 in its last six games).
Michigan’s offense is less settled due to the loss of quarterback Devin Gardner to a turf toe injury. Freshman Shane Morris, who has thrown just nine passes this year, will make his first career start in his place. With such a young signal caller, you’ll probably see the Wolverines try to grind this one out on the ground. They’ve got a solid stable of backs to do that, including Fitzgerald Toussaint (646 yards, 12 touchdowns) and freshman power back Derrick Green, but they’ll miss Gardner’s mobility and moxie.
You have to give K-State the edge going in, at least until Morris proves he is up to the task of running the Wolverine offense. If Michigan’s defense can keep Waters and Sams in check, his first start might be a successful one. But the Wildcats are probably hungrier for the bowl win and they should take care of business.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 35, Michigan 17
Another graduate transfer has made a move, albeit with a slightly different bent than most others.
Auburn confirmed Wednesday that Casey Dunn has been added to Gus Malzahn‘s football roster. The center comes to The Plains as a graduate transfer, which makes him eligible for the 2017 season.
He also comes to Auburn from Jacksonville State, an FCS school that would’ve made him immediately eligible aside from the grad transfer exception. Oh, and his new position coach is excited to have him in the personnel fold as well.
The past two seasons, Dunn was an FCS All-American. While Dunn comes to the Tigers as a center who started 27 games at that position for the Gamecocks, he could play anywhere along the interior of the Tigers’ offensive line.
Malzahn is also very familiar with Dunn’s talent as the lineman started for the JSU squad that took him to overtime in 2015.
Earlier this week, Brad Lambert added a longtime Power Five assistant to his Charlotte coaching staff. Not long after, he has added another.
The 49ers announced in a release that Keith Henry has been hired by Lambert as his running backs coach. The 49ers’ coach at that position last season, Damien Gary, will shift to wide receivers.
Henry and Lambert (pictured, left) were on the same staff at Wake Forest, so they have a previous working relationship.
“Keith brings a lot of experience to our program,” said Lambert in a statement. “Having coached on both sides of the ball, he brings an added dimension of a defensive perspective to our offense. We’re really glad he’s coming on board with us. He’s a North Carolina native who’s played in North Carolina and has recruited for many, many years in North and South Carolina. That will be a huge benefit to our program with the relationships he’s built over the years.
“He’s been very successful and been a part of winning football at Ohio, Wake Forest and Catawba.”
Henry spent 11 seasons with the Demon Deacons (2001-11). He coached on the defensive side of the ball for the first 10 years before spending his final season with the ACC school as special teams coordinator. His last job on the offensive side of the ball came as wide receivers coach at Ohio in 1996.
An off-field incident involving alcohol has unofficially cost an assistant coach a job.
It had been reported that Gerad Parker, who served as Purdue’s interim head coach last season, decided to leave his new job at Cincinnati to take another at East Carolina. That reported move was complicated after reports surfaced that, following a going-away party in West Lafayette early Tuesday morning, the coach was pulled over and charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Parker had been expected to take over the wide receivers coach job at ECU; Wednesday, multiple reports indicated that the Pirates are moving on from the coach in light of the recent development.
In a tweet that has since been deleted from his Twitter account, Parker apologized. “I’m sorry to all my friends and family,” the coach wrote. “Thanks to all that have reached out and shown support.”
Parker would’ve replaced Phil McGeoghan, who left ECU in late January for a job with the Buffalo Bills. ECU’s search for a replacement will continue.
After making some changes to the coaching staff this offseason, Kentucky is locking in offensive coordinator Eddie Gran for the next few seasons. Kentucky has signed Gran to a contract extension good through the 2019 season, according to The Courier-Journal.
According to the reported contract extension, Gran will be paid $825,000 in the 2017 season and will be given a $25,000 raise each of the next two seasons. A buyout cost of $150,000 per years is also added to the contract should he leave for another job during that span. Gran was originally under contract through the 2018 season, so his new deal tacks on an extra year in Lexington. The extended contract also bumps Gran’s pay by $175,000 compared to his previous contract.
Kentucky may have finished the 2017 season ranked 9th in the SEC in total scoring, but the Wildcats bumped up their average points per game by roughly six points in 2016 compared to the 2015 season. Kentucky also had the SEC’s third-most productive rushing attack with an average of 234.15 rushing yards per game and 30 rushing touchdowns. Only Auburn and Alabama had better averages and touchdown totals (and Alabama had two more games to pad the stats).
Kentucky has room to improve in the passing game after finishing the 2016 season ranked 13th in passing offense in the 14-team SEC. Kentucky also had an SEC-high 28 turnovers lost in 2016, with 16 fumbles and 12 interceptions thrown.
Gran joined the Kentucky program last year after a three-year stint at Cincinnati as offensive coordinator. Gran has previously been an assistant at Florida State, Tennessee, Auburn, and Ole Miss as well.