No. 18 BYU loses game, big bowl dreams and Taysom Hill all in one night

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What was supposed to be a memorable night honoring BYU legend Jim McMahon turned sour in a hurry late in the first half. Utah State (3-2) scored 21 points in the final five minutes of the first half and No. 18 BYU (4-1) lost quarterback Taysom Hill for the rest of the season to a broken leg suffered just before halftime. Utah State snapped BYU’s big bowl dreams with a 35-20 victory in Provo Friday night.

Hill was looking like a Heisman candidate, offering the same sort of season Northern Illinois had seen with Jordan Lynch in recent seasons. Hill suffered the injury when attempting to roll out to the sideline on a second-and-long. His leg was rolled on in a tackle attempt by Utah State’s Brian Suite. The irony of the injury was it was Suite who was involved in a play that ended Hill’s 2012 season as well.

After the game BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Hill will undergo surgery today. It is expected to take three or four months for Hill to recover from the injury, meaning we have seen the last of Hill on the football field this season.

Utah State was already taking control of the game when Hill went down. The Aggies had just tied the game at 14-14 late in the first half when a botched exchange between Hill and BYU running back Jamaal Williams was recovered by Utah State on BYU’s first play from scrimmage of the ensuing possession. The Aggies went right for the end zone with a 22-yard pass from Darell Garretson to Devonte Robinson for a 21-14 lead. BYU’s next drive lost momentum when Hill was taken off the field with the injury. The Cougars punted and Utah State took over for one last possession starting from their 13-yard line, but on first down from the 28-yard line Garretson launched a deep pass down the right sideline to Hunter Sharp, who took it 72 yards for a touchdown, giving Utah State a commanding, and deflating 28-14 into the half. This all happened in a span of three and a half minutes, but it must have felt like an eternity for BYU.

Utah State, now without their star quarterback Chuckie Keeton for the remainder of the year, scored a major victory for the program. This was not a conference game, but the Aggies won their first game on the road this season and now look to have some confidence to move through Mountain West Conference play moving forward. Last year Utah State advanced to the conference championship game without Keeton, and if Friday night was any indication, these Aggies have what it takes to make a return trip to the conference championship game again.

BYU’s bowl picture is pretty simple. The Cougars are locked into a trip to the Miami Beach Bowl as long as they qualify for bowl eligibility. BYU only needs two more wins to become bowl eligible, which still should be a lock even without Hill. But the season started off so strong for BYU and the Cougars were making a case to be considered for a New Years Bowl slot if things continued to develop the way it seemed they could. BYU likely needed to run the table for that to be the case though, which means BYU will likely be sticking with the Miami Beach Bowl.

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.