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.

Nearly three-fourths of 2017 first-round NFL draft picks were 4- or 5-star recruits

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For those who completely dismiss recruiting rankings, the NFL draft showed again last night that they do mean something.

The 2017 version of the annual player selection meeting kicked off Thursday night in Philadelphia, with a total of 32 players selected in the opening round.  Of those 32, nearly 75 percent — 22 to be exact — were either four- or five-star recruits.  Nine were the latter, 13 the former.

Four of the first six selections, and three of the first four, were five-star recruits.  Myles Garrett of Texas A&M, the No. 1 overall pick, was the No. 2 player in the 2014 recruiting class; LSU’s Leonard Fournette, drafted fourth by the Jacksonville Jaguars, was the top recruit in that same class.

Just two of the 32 selections came from non-Power Five conferences, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Temple’s Haason Reddick.  Davis was one of two two-star recruits, Missouri’s Charles Harris being the other, while Reddick began his career with the Owls as a walk-on.

There were also six three-star recruits drafted, the highest being Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 overall.  He was also the second quarterback taken, behind only Mitch Trubisky of North Carolina (four-star).

Add all of those up, and you get 31 of the players selected last night.  The 32nd?  Wisconsin offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk, who had an interesting, to say the least, route to major college football.  From Ramczyk’s NFL.com draft profile:

Ramczyk (pronounced RAM-check) is a rare case of a Division III student-athlete making the jump to major college football. Even though he was an all-state pick from Wisconsin, he chose to turn down offers from FBS and FCS schools (one from Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, who was at Pitt at the time) to attend a local technical college. After a year off, he decided to play at his hometown school, the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Ramczyk was a two-time all-conference pick there at left tackle before deciding to transfer to play for Chryst at Wisconsin.

Appropriately, Ramczyk was the last player selected in the first round, taken at No. 32 by the New Orleans Saints.

1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, 2014 5-star (Cleveland Browns)
2.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina, 2013 4-star (Chicago Bears)
3.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford, 2014 5-star (San Francisco 49ers)
4.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, 2014 5-star (Jacksonville Jaguars)
5.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan, 2013 2-star (Tennessee Titans)
6.) Jamal Adams, DB, LSU, 2014 5-star (New York Jets)
7.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson, 2013 4-star (Los Angeles Chargers)
8.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford, 2014 4-star (Carolina Panthers)
9.) John Ross, WR, Washington, 2013 4-star (Cincinnati Bengals)
10.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech, 2013 3-star (Kansas City Chiefs)
11.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State, 2014 4-star (New Orleans Saints)
12.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, 2014 4-star (Houston Texans)
13.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple, walk-on (Arizona Cardinals)
14.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, 2014 4-star (Philadelphia Eagles)
15.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State, 2014 4-star (Indianapolis Colts)
16.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, 2015 4-star (Baltimore Ravens)
17.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama, 2013 5-star (Washington Redskins)
18.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC, 2014 5-star (Tennessee Titans)
19.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama, 2013 5-star (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
20.) Garett Bolles, OL, Utah, 2016 4-star (Denver Broncos)
21.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida, 2013 3-star (Detroit Lions)
22.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri, 2013 2-star (Miami Dolphins)
23.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss, 2013 3-star (New York Giants)
24.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State, 2013 4-star (Oakland Raiders)
25.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan, 2014 5-star (Cleveland Browns)
26.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA, 2013 3-star (Atlanta Falcons)
27.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU, 2013 4-star (Buffalo Bills)
28.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan, 2013 4-star (Dallas Cowboys)
29.) David Njoku, TE, Miami, 2014 3-star (Cleveland Browns)
30.) T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin, 2013 3-star (Pittsburgh Steelers)
31.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, 2013 5-star (San Francisco 49ers)
32.) Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin, no rating (New Orleans Saints)

SEC remains atop NFL draft’s first-round perch

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The ACC may have knocked the SEC off its postseason perch this past season, but the latter conference remains the go-to first-round conference for the NFL.

With the first round of the draft officially in the books, the SEC easily led all leagues in selections with a record-tying 12.  The only conferences even remotely within shouting distance of the SEC were the Big Ten (seven) and the Pac-12 (six).  The ACC finished the first day with four players picked.

And what of the remaining Power Five conference not previously mentioned?  The Big 12 had as many picks, one, as the AAC and MAC.   Wrap your head around that.

Individually, there were six schools with two or more first-round picks, and three of those qualified for the College Football Playoffs last season –Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.  The others were LSU, Michigan and Wisconsin.

‘Bama had four players drafted, tying the program’s record for the first round.  LSU and Ohio State had three each, with two of the former’s coming in the first six picks.

Below are a handful of draft nuggets related to college football programs, followed by the complete first-round order of selections for those whom suddenly found themselves under a rock Thursday night.

  • Myles Garrett is the first-ever No. 1 overall pick Texas A&M has produced.  Luke Joeckel, picked No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft, had previously held the record for highest-drafted Aggie.
  • Clemson’s Mike Williams and Deshaun Watson are the first wide receiver-quarterback combination from the same school to be selected within the first 12 picks since the common draft began in 1967.
  • New #DBU? The three Ohio State defensive backs selected in the first round tied the record for that positional group set by Miami in 2002.  The four defensive backs in general and three cornerbacks specifically selected the past two years sets a draft record as well.
  • Stanford had two players, Solomon Thomas (No. 3) and Christian McCaffrey (No. 8), drafted in the Top 10 for the first time since Bob Whitfield and Tommy Vardell in 1992.  Thomas and McCaffrey became the 24th and 25th first-round picks in the program’s history, with six of those coming in the six seasons under head coach David Shaw. Five of those picks under Shaw came on the offensive side of the ball.
  • Michigan’s two first-round picks this year were as many as the football program had in the last 10 years combined.
  • Derek Barnett was Tennessee’s first draft pick in any round, let alone the first, since 2014.
  • The Miami Hurricanes have had a player chosen in every draft the last 43 years, dating back to 1972.
  • Wide receiver Corey Davis, selected fifth overall by the Tennessee Titans, is the second first-round selection from Western Michigan in the program’s history, joining 27th-overall pick Jason Babin in 2004.  He’s also the 17th player from the MAC to be drafted in the first round.
  • For the first time since 2009, a player who played his high school football in the state of Florida was not selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

1.) Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M (Cleveland Browns)
2.) Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (Chicago Bears)
3.) Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford (San Francisco 49ers)
4.) Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU (Jacksonville Jaguars)
5.) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan (Tennessee Titans)
6.) Jamal Adams, DB, LSU (New York Jets)
7.) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (Los Angeles Chargers)
8.) Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford (Carolina Panthers)
9.) John Ross, WR, Washington (Cincinnati Bengals)
10.) Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech (Kansas City Chiefs)
11.) Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State (New Orleans Saints)
12.) Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (Houston Texans)
13.) Haason Reddick, LB, Temple (Arizona Cardinals)
14.) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee (Philadelphia Eagles)
15.) Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State (Indianapolis Colts)
16.) Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama (Baltimore Ravens)
17.) Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama (Washington Redskins)
18.) Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC (Tennessee Titans)
19.) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
20.) Garett Boles, OL, Utah (Denver Broncos)
21.) Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida (Detroit Lions)
22.) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri (Miami Dolphins)
23.) Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss (New York Giants)
24.) Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State (Oakland Raiders)
25.) Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan (Cleveland Browns)
26.) Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA (Atlanta Falcons)
27.) Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU (Buffalo Bills)
28.) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan (Dallas Cowboys)
29.) David Njoku, TE, Miami (Cleveland Browns)
30.) T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin (Pittsburgh Steelers)
31.) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama (San Francisco 49ers)
32.) Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin (New Orleans Saints)

Michigan, UCLA to do combined football camp this summer

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A pair of teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 have decided to combine forces for a little camping action this summer.

During an interview Thursday, UCLA head coach Jim Mora revealed that his coaching staff as well as Michigan’s will work a football camp together in a couple of months. The camp will take place in June on the UCLA campus.

Mora’s counterpart at U-M, in case you were wondering, is expected to take part as well.

“We’re going to have a camp,” Mora told the Rich Eisen Show by way of mlive.com. “Michigan is going to send some of their coaches out, (Jim) Harbaugh is coming out – we’re going to do a combined camp with Michigan. It’s going to be fun.”

Interestingly, there is a very recent coaching connection between the two programs to add to the summer marriage.

The past two seasons, Jedd Fisch had served as the quarterbacks coach/wide receivers coach/passing-game coordinator for the Wolverines. In early January, it was announced that Fisch would be the Bruins’ new offensive coordinator. He’ll also serve as quarterbacks coach.

Football meets futbol as Texas A&M’s Kyle Field trying to host Manchester Derby friendly

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Football could turn into futbol at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field this summer.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the venue is on the short list to host English Premier League giants Manchester United and Manchester City for a stateside derby on July 20th this summer.

“We firmly believe Texas A&M is a world-class university, so you’re bringing world-class Premier League soccer teams to the campus,” Aggies senior associate athletic director Kevin Hurley told the paper.

For college football fans not aware, the two teams are some of the biggest soccer clubs in the world and annually stage a Manchester derby (think home-and-home series) several times a year for supremacy in the large, industrial English city. The upcoming game between the two in the United States is set to be part of the International Champions Cup, which has hosted several other major clubs from across Europe in matches at college football stadiums ranging from the Big House at Michigan to Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

Perhaps most interestingly, the DMN notes that Texas’ Memorial Stadium was originally in the running to host the game but organizers had to look elsewhere because of scheduling issues. The Longhorns and Aggies used to have one of the best rivalries in all of college athletics so it just makes sense for the two to have a bit and a back-and-forth when it comes to hosting a rivalry of a different kind.

Houston’s NRG Stadium (home of the Texans) is also reportedly in the mix but playing a soccer game at one of college football’s loudest venues seems like the no-brainer choice on novelty alone. It would be worth going to alone to see A&M fans explain ‘Gig’em’ and the ’12 Man’ to those from across the pond.