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BCS Championship coaches took different routes to Pasadena

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Jimbo Fisher and Gus Malzahn were each hired to do one thing; restore the pride in their respective programs. Each wasted little time in building a national championship contender, although they took different paths to getting to Pasadena, California for the chance to bring their programs t the top of the college football world.

Fisher is a branch off of the Nick Saban coaching tree. He served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU under the current Alabama head coach, but he remained in Baton Rouge when Saban decided to answer a call from the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Now under Les Miles, Fisher made a name for himself as LSU’s offensive guru and helping to make quarterback JaMarcus Russell a top NFL draft pick (kindly forget how that all played out). As Fisher built up his resume at LSU, it was becoming clear Fisher was going to be given a chance to serve as head coach one day.

That path to becoming a head coach hit a road block in 2006. Fisher interviewed for an opening at the UAB, but his contract offer was vetoed by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees. Saban, now back in the SEC after flaking out with the Dolphins, wanted to bring Fisher back on to his staff at Alabama. Fisher instead took an offer from Florida State to perform the same coaching duties, but this was more than a simple lateral move. Florida State went the extra yard to name Fisher the coach-in-waiting under Bobby Bowden. Bowden announced his resignation at the end fo the 2009 season. Fisher got to work right away by re-energizing a sleeping giant of a program. Fisher’s leadership in recruiting efforts showed immediate results and Florida State started building the foundation for long-term dominance in the ACC that had long been absent in Tallahassee.

The results of that first recruiting class under Fisher will now get a chance to demonstrate how far the program has come. Six starters for the Seminoles on Monday night were a part of the first recruiting class under Fisher as head coach. that includes strong safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith as well as wide receiver Kenny Shaw and fullback Chad Abram.

In Fisher’s first year on the job at Florida State, Auburn was making a run for the first BCS championship in school history. Gene Chizik had surprised many by building a championship caliber program at Auburn, but the biggest asset on the sidelines was perceived to be offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who had served his time as a high school coach and college assistant coach at multiple stops. Malzahn quickly became a hot commodity as Cam Newton was playing his way to a Heisman Trophy in Malzahn’s offensive system. During that championship season for Auburn, Malzahn was named the top assistant coach in college football with the Broyles Award. Now a highly attractive option as a head coach, Auburn offered Malzahn a nice raise to keep him around.

Over time it was clear Malzahn was not going to be sticking around for long as an assistant coach. Whether it was a conflict of power or just a matter of getting out and giving head coaching a shot, Malzahn jumped at the opportunity to coach Arkansas State in 2012. It worked out extremely well for Malzahn, leading the Red Wolves to a  9-3 record and a Sun Belt Conference championship. As Auburn continued to falter the pressure was on Auburn to make a coaching change. That meant the end of the line for Chizik, leaving the door wide open for the assistant who was adored for his work within the program.

Malzahn was named the head coach of Auburn in December 2012, and he quickly went to work to put together a staff he felt comfortable working with. Although the optimism was high for the new Malzahn era at Auburn, few could have imagined how rapid the turnaround would be. Auburn was 3-9 in 2012 and immediately turned in a 13-1 season under Malzahn, knocking off rival and top-ranked Alabama in unbelievable fashion, running away with the sEC championship against Missouri and getting a chance to lay claim to one last BCS title on behalf of the time SEC.

On Monday night, the two paths will cross in what could easily be an epic showdown between two of college football’s top coaches today.

34 assistants in running for Broyles Award honor

Tom Herman
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If your school is in the market for a head coach, and they’re going to go the assistant coach route, there’s a fairly decent chance that the new sideline boss appears somewhere on this recently-released list.

Wednesday afternoon, the Rotary Club of Little Rock announced the 34 nominees for the 2015 Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding assistant coach.  Two former winners made the cut this year — Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart (2009) and North Carolina defensive coordinator Gene Chizik (2004, while at Auburn).

Of the 34 finalists, 19 come from Power Five conferences.  The AAC, ACC and SEC lead all leagues with five nominees each, while the Big Ten has four.  The MAC, Pac-12 and Sun Belt claimed three nominees apiece, with the Big 12’s two is tied with the Mountain West for fewest among all conferences.

There are 16 defensive coordinators on the list and 13 offensive coordinators, along with one special teams coordinator (Utah State’s Dave Ungerer).  Only four non-coordinators made the cut: Georgia Southern running backs coach Dell McGee, Mississippi State quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, North Carolina State defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen, USC wide receivers coach Tee Martin.

Last year’s winner was Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, now the head coach at Houston.  Five finalists for this year’s award will be announced Nov. 30, with the winner being revealed Dec. 8.

• Alabama – Kirby Smart, Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers
• Arkansas – Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Arkansas State – Joe Cauthen, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Baylor – Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator
• Boston College – Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Bowling Green State – Sean Lewis, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Central Michigan – Greg Colby, Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers
• Clemson – Brent Venables, Defensive Coordinator, Linebackers
• Colorado State – Will Friend, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
• Florida – Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator
• Florida State – Charles Kelly, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
• Georgia Southern – Dell McGee, Running Backs
• Georgia State – Jesse Minter, Defensive Coordinator
• Houston – Todd Orlando, Defensive Coordinator
• Indiana – Greg Frey, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
• Iowa – Greg Davis, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach
• Louisiana Tech – Tony Petersen, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Marshall – Chuck Heater, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs
• Memphis – Brad Cornelsen, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Michigan – Tim Drevno, Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
• Mississippi State – Brian Johnson, Quarterbacks
• Navy – Dale Pehrson, Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
• NC State – Ryan Nielsen, Defensive Line
• North Carolina – Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator
• Ole Miss – Dan Werner, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Oklahoma – Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• South Florida – Danny Hope, Co–Offensive Coordinator/Run Game
• Temple – Phil Snow, Defensive Coordinator
• Toledo – Jon Heacock, Defensive Coordinator
• UCLA – Noel Mazzone, Offensive Coordinator
• USC – Tee Martin, WR/Pass Game Coordinator
• Utah State – Dave Ungerer, Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs
• Washington State University – Alex Grinch, Defensive Coordinator/Secondary
• Wisconsin – Dave Aranda, Defensive Coordinator

VIDEO: Harbaugh takes hammer to Buckeye nut at Bo’s grave

1 Jan 1987: Head coach Bo Schembechler of Michigan during their 22-15 loss to Arizona State at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart  /Allsport
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I’m very quickly closing in on the end of my seventh year being in charge of this place, and the beginning of my eighth. One thing I’ve been very honest and straightforward about from the very beginning is the fact that I grew up in a decidedly Ohio State household, and that The Game between OSU and Michigan is one of the greatest rivalries in not only college football but all of sports.

With the annual hate-fest on tap this weekend, and with Jim Harbaugh‘s first go-round as head coach in the rivalry adding to the build-up, this is easily one of the most anticipated in what’s been a rather one-sided rivalry of late — the Buckeyes have won, on the field, 10 of the last 11.

So, in accordance with the spirit of the rivalry, Harbaugh, of course, took a maize-colored hammer in hand and smashed a Buckeye nut at the grave of his former head coach, UM coaching great Bo Schembechler.

Harbaugh played for Schembechler in Ann Arbor, and it’s quite obvious, from an impromptu graveside speech, that his former coach had an indelible impact on the man who found his way back home to the maize & blue:

Bo was my coach,” Harbaugh said. “I first met him when I was nine years old when my dad coached here at Michigan. He was the secondary coach. He was larger than life to our family. Excited and enthusiasm beyond what anybody could imagine. He would let us come to practice. We were ball boys, my brother John and I.

“And getting to play for coach Schembechler, what I can tell you is this, everything I base my entire professional life on and my personal life was learned here at the University of Michigan. It’s rooted at the University of Michigan, it was experienced at the University of Michigan. And it’s the team, the team, the team. We win as a team. Everybody does a little, and it adds up to a lot. When it came to honor, integrity, doing things at the highest level, Bo Schembechler set the standard.

“I draw daily inspiration from coach Schembechler, like so many that knew him, anybody that knew him, anybody that was associated with him, anybody that played for him or anybody that coached with him, he set the standard at the very highest level. One of the greatest of all time, Bo Schembechler.

Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State last weekend may have taken some of the shine off of Harbaugh’s first go-round in The Game, but the presence of The Khaki One — and his obvious connection to the past — ensures that the rivalry is in good hands moving forward.

Gamecocks may be focusing coach search on Tide DC Kirby Smart

TUSCALOOSA, AL - APRIL 19:  Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart yells at Reuben Foster #10 of the Crimson team prior to the University of Alabama A-Day spring game at Bryant-Denny Stadium on April 19, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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A pair of signs that developed Wednesday are pointing to Nick Saban possibly needing to replace his long-time defensive boss this offseason.

According to Yahoo SportsPat Forde, current Houston head coach Tom Herman, who has a significant raise on the table from his current employer, is no longer a candidate for the same job at South Carolina as he’s withdrawn his name from consideration.  Forde writes that “Herman had been the school’s top choice to replace Steve Spurrier, sources said, and third-party discussions had been extensive.”

Nearly simultaneously, Bruce Feldman of FOXSports.com reported that ‘Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart “has emerged as the frontrunner for the South Carolina head coaching vacancy.”  Forde also mentioned that Smart could be the Gamecocks’ Plan B, while ESPN.com wrote that the 39-year-old “has emerged as one of the leading candidates” for the vacancy in Columbia.

Smart has had a handful of opportunities to leave Saban’s staff since joining it in 2007, but has thus far chosen to remain in Tuscaloosa.

If Smart is indeed USC’s top candidate, a fellow SEC East rival could throw a wrench in those plans. Should Georgia and Mark Richt decide to part ways, Smart, who played his college football at UGA, would be a likely candidate to replace the long-time head coach.  In addition to playing for the Bulldogs, Smart began his career as an administrative assistant at his alma mater and coached running backs there in 2005 before joining Saban with the Miami Dolphins and, ultimately, the Tide.

No charges filed in alleged rape at Nebraska players’ house

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 14:  Tommy Armstrong Jr. #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers congratulates teammate Jordan Westerkamp #1 after he scored a touchdown in the first quarter against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights  on November 14, 2015 at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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An investigation into an alleged sexual assault at the home of three current Nebraska football players will not result in charges, Lancaster County (Neb.) officials announced Wednesday.

An unidentified 20-year-old female claimed she was raped Nov. 15 at the residence of NU quarterback Tommy Armstrong (pictured, left), tight end Trey Foster and wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp (pictured, right). The subsequent investigation could not prove that any type of an assault had taken place.

“Filing charges would require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That simply is not there,” district attorney Joe Kelly stated in announcing the decision.  Armstrong had previously claimed that “[f]rom what we’re hearing, everything was consensual.”

The university’s athletic department released a statement in the wake of today’s announcement.

We are aware of this morning’s announcement by the Lincoln Police Department and the Lancaster County Attorney. There is no change in the status of any student-athletes. We will continue to follow University policies.

The school is in the midst of conducting its own investigation into the situation. As it stands now, all three players will be available for Friday’s game against No. 4 Iowa..