Florida State wins final BCS Championship Game as Winston responds to adversity

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Hollywood could not have scripted a better ending to the BCS era in college football. Following great endings in each of the previous BCS bowl games, the BCS Championship Game did not disappoint. Down four points with just over a minute to play, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston was charged with having to lead the Seminoles 80 yards for the game-winning score, and he delivered. A short pass over the middle to Kelvin Benjamin was held on to for a go-ahead touchdown with just 13 seconds to play. Auburn, the team of destiny heading in to the title game, had seen their magic run out, and Florida State brought a death-blow to the SEC’s BCS championship winning streak in the final BCS Championship Game to be played.

Florida State 34, Auburn 31.

So long BCS. Thanks for the memories.

Florida State was down 21-3 in the second quarter, but the game never got away from them. Any question about how this team would handle adversity was answered in most dramatic fashion under the brightest spotlight of the season. Florida State scored a late touchdown in the second quarter when Winston completed the first of his two touchdowns to Devonta Freeman to make it a 21-10 deficit at the half. The Seminoles tacked on three points in the third quarter and set up a one-score game heading in to the final quarter of the college football season.

Florida State continued to carry the momentum in the fourth quarter by pulling to within one point of the Tigers. A Jameis Winston touchdown pass to Chad Abram on the right side of the field made it a two-point game, 21-19, but an unsportsmanlike penalty on Devonta Freeman for taunting the Auburn sideline following the score held Florida State to nothing more than an extra point attempt rather than potentially going for a game-tying two-point conversion. The video replay showed it may have been a tad of an overreaction by the Big Ten referee, but it was still a situation that could have easily been avoided by Freeman.

The penalty was enforced on the ensuing kickoff, giving Auburn a free 15-yard head start on what turned out to be a pivotal possession. Auburn traveled 69 yards and ran just over six minutes of clock but had to settle for a field goal. This gave Auburn a 24-20 lead, but it was short-lived. A 100-yard kickoff return by Levonte Whitfield electrified the Florida State section of the Rose Bowl with the first lead of the night by the Seminoles since a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Florida State finally clawed all the way back, but the defense failed to come up with a stop.

Auburn, who had come up with late momentum-shifting plays down the stretch of the season with a bit of flair, did so once again by going to their strength, the running game. the Tigers capped a 75-yard drive on eight plays, leaving 1:19 left on the game clock. The final play of the drive came when Heisman finalist running back Tre Mason ran over a Florida State defender and ran 37-yards for a touchdown. The way things had gone this season for Auburn you may have thought that would have been the cherry on top of a miraculous turnaround season for Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers, but this time it was Florida State who had one last memorable drive in them.

A total of 80 yards separated Florida State from a national title. The team that had been the most dominant team from the start of the season through the conference championships, needed to dig deeper than they had early in the year against Boston College and much deeper than needed against Clemson or Miami. Adversity? Like everything else this season, Winston and Florida State brushed it off their shoulders like it was no big deal. Except that it really was.

Winston completed the first three plays of the drive to move the offense down to the Auburn 17-yard line. The big play was a 49-yard completion to Rashad Greene, but a defensive pass interference on Auburn’s Chris Davis in the end zone on a 3rd and eight gave Florida State a free first down at the two-yard line. On the very next play Winston found his favorite target, Benjamin, for the game and championship clinching touchdown.

Whew.

The college football season is now in the books. Florida State won their third national championship in school history, and brought the BCS era full circle.

Illinois adds longtime NFL assistant; DC Hardy Nickerson given beefed-up title

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There was some movement on the coaching staff front for Lovie Smith Friday.

Illinois announced earlier today that Gill Byrd has been hired by Smith as the Fighting Illini’s safeties coach.  Byrd will also hold the title of passing-game coordinator.

“I’m very pleased to have Gill Byrd join the Illini coaching staff,” said Smith in a statement. “We’ve spent several seasons together in the NFL and I envision Gill bringing a great combination of knowledge and enthusiasm to our program. He will be a terrific influence on the young men he coaches, and, as good a coach as he is, he is probably an even better person.”

Byrd, who played his college football at San Jose State, has spent the past 19 seasons at the NFL level, coaching defensive backs during stops with the St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, most recently, with the Buffalo Bills last season.  This will mark Byrd’s first-ever job at any level of college football.

In addition to the hiring of Byrd, the football program also confirmed that Hardy Nickerson has been given the additional title of assistant head coach.  Nickerson has served as the Illini’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for each of the past two seasons.

Texas set to give DC Todd Orlando new contract with raise to $1.7 million a year

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Everything’s bigger in Texas — including the raises.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that the University of Texas System Board of Regents are set to approve several athletics-related contracts next week, headlined by athletic director Chris Del Conte’s multi-million dollar six-year deal and a hefty raise for Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando.

Orlando, who joined Tom Herman when he came over from Houston prior to last season, was already one of 15 assistants who were making over $1 million in 2017. He was courted by several programs this offseason however and the cost to retain him on the 40 Acres didn’t come cheap as his amended contract is set to pay him a reported $1.7 million as part of a new four-year deal.

Also on tap for the board? The Statesman notes that new offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Herb Hand has a three-year contract awaiting approval worth nearly $640,000 annually.

While all those new contracts do add up for the Longhorns, it’s not like the burnt orange can’t afford it all as one of a handful of programs who topped $200 million in revenue last year.

Texas A&M athletic director: “There are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC.”

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CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd recently stopped in College Station to do a deep dive on one of college football’s biggest storylinesJimbo Fisher’s $75 million move from Florida State to Texas A&M.

While the money — some $90 million for the Aggies when all is said and done — is one of the more eye-catching parts of the story that are broken down, the comments from some at the school probably won’t go unnoticed by those in Fisher’s former conference.

“I’m not going to put words in Jimbo’s mouth, but there are resource issues in the ACC versus the SEC,” Texas A&M athletic director Scott Woodward told CBS Sports, answering part of the question as to why the national title-winning head coach made the move from one of the sport’s blue-bloods to one of the oft-labeled “sleeping giants.”

We’re guessing those in ACC territory will not take kindly to those comments and note that some schools in the league have no problem raising cash, such as Clemson when it comes to their new football facility that has everything from mini-golf to sleep specialists. They also would probably point out that the conference has just as many national titles in the past five years as the SEC does too.

Still, when you look at the larger picture, there’s little question that the SEC is ahead of the ACC when it comes to revenues as a whole and the slow pace of facilities upgrades in Tallahassee was one of the many public grumbles that Fisher made known about before leaving FSU.

Something says all those ACC-SEC football games in 2018 will see Woodward’s comments brought up again — especially when Clemson heads to College Station to play Texas A&M in Week 2.

UCF’s Shaquem Griffin wins inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award

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UCF has won another trophy for last season and this is one they can very proudly display in the school trophy case.

That’s because recent Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin was named the winner of the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award during a ceremony in the Dallas area on Thursday night. Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph were also finalists for the new award.

Griffin was one of the best players in college football for UCF despite the fact that his left hand was amputated when he was younger because of a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome. A tenacious pass rusher, he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year in 2016 and was recently named the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl as his team capped off a perfect season.

The award honors “exemplary leadership” on and off the field from a Division I college football player and was presented by Witten’s foundation. The former Tennessee star and All-Pro tight end with the Dallas Cowboys started the award last year and serves somewhat as the college version of the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award.