Rose Bowl champions? Sparty yes! Michigan State holds off Stanford, 24-20


In a game full of defensive talent, it was only fitting that the deciding play in the Rose Bowl turned out to be a 4th and 1 in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans came up with the big stop as No. 5 Stanford (11-3, 7-2 Pac 12) was down four points with the game on the line. With defenders leaping over a pile at the Stanford 34-yard line, No. 4 Michigan State  (13-1, 8-0 Big Ten) stuffed fullback Ryan Hewitt for no gain, allowing the Spartans offense to run out the clock for the fourth Rose Bowl championship in program history. Michigan State held on for a 24-20 win in Pasadena.

The game was everything it was expected to be, with defenses coming up with big plays, but in this one the Michigan State offense took control of the game. Michigan State rolled up 400 yards of offense and went on a 17-0 run to come from behind and carry all of the momentum in the second half. Michigan State dug an early 10-0 hole, but Connor Cook never gave in and passed for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Stanford’s defense. Cook’s fourth quarter pass to Tony Lippett from 25 yards proved to be the game winner. At the time it broke a 17-17 tie, so the game was placed in the hands of the Spartans defense, a comfortable feeling for Michigan State for sure.

Stanford looked to catch Michigan State off guard when a field goal attempt seemed to fall apart and the Cardinal completed a roll out pass for a first down, but the officials threw a flag for an illegal formation with an ineligible receiver down field amid the confusion on the play. Rather than seizing momentum and having a chance to tie things up, Stanford settled for a 39-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson to cut Michigan State’s lead to 24-20.

The Cardinal then forced the Spartans to go three-and-out with just over three minutes to play. With one last chance, the Cardinal were stopped on a fourth down with one yard to go to keep the game alive. With no timeouts, there was nothing Stanford could do but watch as Michigan State allowed the seconds to tick all the way down to triple zeros.

The win for Michigan State is just the second by a Big Ten team since 2000. Ohio State defeated Oregon in the 2010 game. The Big Ten may have suffered a 1-2 mark earlier in the day against SEC opponents, but the conference has a chance to end the bowl season on a high note if Ohio State can take down Clemson in the Orange Bowl. A pair of BCS bowl victories would help to overshadow a losing bowl season regardless of what happens. Michigan State has now also proven to be worthy of playing on the big stage, but will they be able to keep this momentum going in 2014 as the College Football Playoff era is christened?

Michigan State will enter the 2014 season as the outright defending Big Ten champions for the first time since 1988. They will do so in a new division as well. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers next year the Big Ten is re-organizing the division line-up. Michigan State will be in the Big Ten’s East division, along with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. The Spartans will geta  rematch with the Buckeyes on November 8, 2014 and also travel to Oregon in mid-September. Michigan State will also renew their end-of-the-year series with Penn State. Like Stanford, Michigan State will have three offensive linemen moving on but the significant players on the offense will be in tact at the skill positions. The defense will have six senior starters to replace but the Spartans should continue being tough on defense. The good news is Mark Dantonio and his staff will be getting a nice pay upgrade, so the Spartans will have some continuity working for them.

Stanford will have some changes to work through when the Cardinal move in to 2014. The offensive line will have at least three starters to replace in addition to running back Tyler Gaffney and fullback Ryan Hewitt. The defense will also be looking for new leadership after losing a good handful of players to graduation, including linebacker Shayne Skov. The backbone of Stanford’s success the last few years has been a punishing ground game and a stiff defense (yeah, Andrew Luck was a nice asset as well), so look for David Shaw to continue with that typical formula as the Pac 12 North continues to catch up. The Pac 12 North may still be Stanford’s or Oregon’s to lose in 2014, but Washington adding Chris Petersen as a head coach should lead to the Huskies improving as well. The Cardinal will get USC at home next season but will take to the road to play Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington in addition to a non-conference match-up in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame.

North Texas finalizing new deals for head coach Seth Littrell, AD Wren Baker

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After a successful turnaround campaign in 2017, North Texas is preparing to sweeten the deal for head coach Seth Littrell.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reports that the school is in the process of finalizing a new contract for both Littrell and athletic director Wren Baker, with regents approving moving forward in the process last month. While final numbers and details have not been released, the expectation is that both will get a raise and likely have increased buyouts after the coach and athletic director were mentioned in connection to bigger jobs this offseason.

Littrell took over a program two years ago that was coming off a 1-11 record and has turned things around to the point where the team has made back-to-back bowl games in his first two seasons in Denton. The Mean Green won the CUSA West division in 2017 and wrapped up the year with nine wins for the first time since 2013 — including just the fourth winning record for UNT in 15 seasons.

The former Oklahoma running back and Mike Leach assistant was the highest paid head coach in Conference USA according to USA Today‘s salary database and he is expected to get a further raise in the new deal that should take Littrell over the $1 million mark for annual salary. Baker arrived in Denton the year after the head coach and has helped raise significant sums to upgrade facilities at North Texas during his short tenure so far.

The Mean Green have already begun spring football practices and will host their annual spring game on March 30th.

Dismissed by West Virginia, Tyree Owens has now been removed from East Carolina’s roster

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To say that Tyree Owens has had an up-and-down — mostly down — collegiate career would be a significant understatement.

Originally a West Virginia signee, Owens was one of three Mountaineer football players stabbed in an off-field accident in September of 2015… only to be one of three WVU football players dismissed from the program very shortly thereafter for violating unspecified team rules.

After one season at a junior college, the defensive lineman transferred to East Carolina. After one season at ECU, Owens is out again as the American Athletic Conference school announced that the redshirt junior “has also been removed from the roster as a result of an indefinite suspension related to the team’s academic policy.”

Last season, Owens started three of the 10 games in which he played, with all of those starts coming at defensive tackle. His 3.5 tackles for loss were fourth on the team, while his three quarterback hits were second on the Pirates.  Two of those tackles for loss came against… WVU, of course.

A three-star member of WVU’s 2014 recruiting class, Owens was rated as the No. 49 strongside defensive end in the country. He took a redshirt as a true freshman for the Mountaineers.

Owens, now at a Mississippi junior college, originally committed to Texas A&M in October of 2016 before decommitting nearly three months later and ultimately signing with ECU in mid-December of that same year.

Clemson DT Christian Wilkins on substitute teaching: I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’

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Those of a certain age may look back on going to grade school and think fondly on those rare days where the regular teacher was out and a substitute filled in. For many around the country, that often meant watching a movie or two for class instead of doing, well… actual work.

If you happen to be a kindergarten student at James M. Brown Elementary School in Walhalla, South Carolina though, having a substitute teacher for class has been taking on a whole different meaning the past few weeks. That’s because 300-pound Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been moonlighting as a sub and trying to corral little kids on a much gentler scale than he corrals quarterbacks on Saturdays in the fall.

“It was fun, but took a lot out of me,” Wilkins told ESPN earlier this week. “I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’ with all those little kids. Talk about energy, but it was a real cool experience.”

Perhaps the most accurate line from Chris Low’s excellent story on Wilkins’ substitute duties came by one young pupil who muttered, ‘That’s one big mister.’ The senior All-American is only getting $80 for a day’s worth of work with the kids but seeing the massive defensive tackle walk into a room is probably as priceless for Wilkins as it is for those at the school.

UCF claims undefeated season was worth $200+ million in exposure for football program

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How much is an undefeated season worth for a program? If you ask the most recent team to accomplish the feat, the answer is a lot of dough. Like nine figures worth.

According to a release by UCF, the school commissioned a report compiled by Joyce Julius & Associates on just how much value they got from their football team’s perfect season that was capped off with an AAC conference title and a Peach Bowl victory over Auburn:

When combining national television game broadcasts, television news coverage, print media, Internet news and social media, the value of the exposure for UCF Football from Nov. 17, 2017-Jan. 31, 2018 was $171,079,417.47. Combined, the entirety of the 2017 UCF Football season’s exposure was valued at well over $200 million.

Further more, the study found roughly 160,000 total social media posts “generated nearly 655 million impressions with an estimated exposure value of $17,696,403.81. Of the 160,792 posts the study found, over 138,000 of them were on Twitter.” No word how many of those tweets were fans ridiculing the school for claiming a national title or just angry Alabama supporters yelling back about the sport’s true champion last season.

There’s no doubt that the Knights’ story and resulting publicity from claiming to be “national champions” was worth plenty to the school, but it seems like a bit of fuzzy math to claim all of $200 million worth of exposure even with new state license plates and trips to Disney World. One wonders if UCF can claim low nine figures from a “championship” run you’ve got to think Nick Saban’s actual title-winning Alabama team might be able lay claim to more than double that amount for winning the College Football Playoff after all.