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

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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.

Auburn needs new offensive line coach, and UConn’s just resigned

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It appears Auburn’s search for a new offensive line coach may not take very long.

Tuesday, reports surfaced that Herb Hand was leaving The Plains to take the line job at Texas.  The veteran will also be adding to title of co-offensive coordinator with the Longhorns.

One day later, UConn confirmed in a press release that its line coach, J.B. Grimes, has resigned his position, effective immediately.  It just so happens that Grimes spent three seasons (2013-15) coaching at Auburn before moving on to Cincinnati for the 2016 season and, ultimately, UConn.

“I want to thank J.B. for his efforts during his time with us,” head coach Randy Edsall said in a statement. “I wish J.B and his family nothing but the best.”

Grimes spent one season with the Huskies.

Jauan Jennings enrolled in classes at Tennessee; future with Vols football still unclear

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It appears the door is at least slightly ajar for Jauan Jennings‘ return to Rocky Top.

A University of Tennessee spokesperson confirmed to the Knoxville News Sentinel that Jennings is enrolled in classes for the current semester. Jennings has met with both new head coach Jeremy Pruitt and athletic directors Phillip Fulmer about the possibility of being reinstated to the Vols football program.

“I think (Pruitt has) put some parameters around it,” Fulmer stated during a radio interview late last week, “and I guess everybody has got to figure out what those are and if they’re really going to do it. That’s up to them.”

The wide receiver’s status with the football program remains up in the air, nearly two months after Jennings went off on a profanity-laced social-media tirade aimed at the coaching staff. The day after, he was dismissed by interim head coach Brady Hoke, who made the decision in concert with then-athletic director John Currie.

In early September, prior to the off-field issue, Jennings suffered what turned out to be a season-ending wrist injury that limited him to three catches for 17 yards in just one game.

Jennings, who originally came to the Vols as a quarterback, was second on the team in 2016 with 580 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. His 40 receptions were tied for second on the team as well.

Report: Deion Sanders opts not to join Florida State staff

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So much for a Primetime renewal in Tallahassee.

Late last month, just prior to Florida State’s Independence Bowl matchup with Southern Miss, speculation surfaced that there was mutual interest in Deion Sanders joining Willie Taggart‘s first FSU staff as defensive backs coach.  During an in-game interview, the College and Pro Football Hall of Famer was asked about the speculation but did little to quash it.

Nearly a month later, that potential reunion has reportedly been quashed.

Sanders, whose NFL career ended in 2005, has never coached at the collegiate level.  He started his own ill-fated charter school in 2012 and coached the football team there, while he served as the offensive coordinator at a private school in Texas this past season.

The former Seminole great currently serves as an analyst for the NFL Network.

Teammates, coaches take to social media to mourn Tyler Hilinski’s death

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As the Washington State family begins to mourn and attempts to process this tragedy, several of Tyler Hilinski‘s teammates and coaches used social media to help sort through the tangled gamut of emotions they’re running through.

Overnight, word surfaced that the redshirt sophomore quarterback had been found dead of what’s believed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. “He was an incredible young man,” head coach Mike Leach said in a statement, “and everyone who had the privilege of knowing him was better for it.”

On both Twitter and Instagram, heartbroken Cougar football players and coaches dealt with the devastation left in the suicide’s wake.

And this might be the most important message to come out of this tragedy.  Maybe in death, Tyler Hilinski can help someone find the hope and the help they need.

R.I.P young man.