Melvin Gordon’s grand finale ends with Wisconsin topping Auburn in OT for Outback Bowl win

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Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon rushed for 251 yards and three touchdowns, inching closer to the NCAA single-season rushing record, to help power No. 18 Wisconsin (11-3) past No. 19 Auburn (8-5) to an overtime victory in the Outback Bowl. A missed field goal by Auburn secured a bowl victory for Barry Alvarez and Wisconsin, 34-31, on New Years Day in Tampa, Florida.

Wisconsin and Auburn traded scored from start to finish, but Wisconsin turned a game of touchdowns into a game of field goal kicking down the final stretch of the game. Down 31-28 with just under three minutes to play, Wisconsin drove deep into the Auburn end of the field in the final moments of the fourth quarter before having to settle for a game-tying field goal from Rafael Gaglianone. Gaglianone opened the overtime session with his second field goal of the game to give the Badgers an overtime lead on the first possession. Auburn was unable to move the football on offense on their overtime possession, forcing Daniel Carlson to attempt a long field goal that bounced off the goal post, giving Wisconsin the win.

Wisconsin tried dabbling with the passing game in the first half, but Joel Stave was picked off three times before Alvarez started going back to the big running game with Gordon and Corey Clement. Gordon turned in what may have been a game-changing play when he took off for a powerful 53-yard run on fourth and one. It was a gutsy call by Alvarez, but he was rewarded by Gordon’s amazing effort to stay in bounds to score a touchdown that put the Badgers in front at the time, 21-17. It was the second rushing touchdown of the quarter from Gordon, adding to his 25-yard score earlier in the half. Gordon was the story of the second half, but Auburn came up with an answer every time for a while.

Auburn struck right back with Nick Marshall playing well under center and making some very good throws. C.J. Uzomah hauled in a 20-yard pass down the right sideline once his defender was caught taking a look back. That allowed him to create just enough separation to race down field and score a touchdown to give the Tigers a three-point lead. With the ball back in Wisconsin’s hands, Alvarez stuck to what works best, and that meant running the football with Gordon and Clement. That move paid off with Gordon adding his third touchdown of the afternoon on a six-yard push up the middle to reclaim the lead. As was the story of the second half, the lead would be short-lived, as Auburn responded on the ensuing possession. The Auburn go-ahead touchdown — coming on a short run by Cameron Artis-Payne — was given an extra chance following a somewhat questionable defensive pass interference called on the Badgers in the end zone on a fourth-down play.

The win was a big one for the Big Ten, although the conference’s other bowl teams in action at the time were staring down some double-digit losses. Auburn was the fourth team from the SEC West to suffer a loss this bowl season, joining LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Arkansas and Texas A&M won their bowl games, and Alabama will take on Ohio State later.

Moving forward, Wisconsin will hand the program over to Paul Chryst. Chryst will take over without Gordon, but Clement is a nice option to have in the backfield. Quarterback play will have to improve under Chryst, but this is one of his specialties. Auburn is not going anywhere either. The Tigers will once again be a dynamic team in the SEC in 2015, and the addition of Will Muschamp to the coaching staff figures to help the defense improve.

Arizona State confirms Boise State’s Zak Hill as new OC

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At the end of the regular season, Herm Edwards fired the bulk of Arizona State’s offensive staff. Nearly two weeks later, the reshaping of the assistants on that side of the ball has commenced in earnest.

Following up on speculation that had been growing in recent days, ASU on Saturday announced that Zak Hill has been hired as Edwards’ new offensive coordinator. Hill will replace Rob Likens, who was a part of the post-regular-season purge.

“Zak is very well versed in offensive football,” the head coach said in a statement. “He comes from winning programs and he played the quarterback position. I like that. He’s good at building an offense around the personnel that he has available to him. He will force the defense to adjust with multiple formations and personnel groups. His style fits the DNA of what we want on our coaching staff. He’s an excellent teacher.”

The past four seasons, Hill served as the coordinator at Boise State. Prior to that, and aside from a one-month stop at Hawaii, Hill spent seven seasons as the passing-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at FCS power Eastern Washington.

“I am really excited about this opportunity and I truly believe it is a great situation for me at ASU,” Hill said. “I appreciate Coach Edwards believing in me and having the trust to bring me on and I am thankful to Ray Anderson and the Sun Devil administration for their support in making this happen. I am really excited to get down there and I know we have some exciting weapons on offense. I look forward to putting together an explosive, fun offense that our fans will love to watch.”

“I am humbled at this opportunity. I also want to thank everyone at Boise State for a great four years and I am grateful for all the support I have received from Bronco Nation,” he added. “I would especially like to thank Coach Harsin for his leadership and my years at Boise State and the opportunity he afforded me to grow as a coach.”

In addition to Hill’s, uhhh, addition, ASU also confirmed Derek Hagan and Prentice Gill as offensive assistants. Their specific titles and responsibilities were not detailed.

Hagan, who played wide receiver for the Sun Devils and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2015, was an offensive analyst at ASU this past season. Gill served in the same role at Oregon.

Dabo Swinney lays out new responsibilities for offensive staff

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Jeff Scott spent a dozen years at Clemson, including the last five seasons as co-offensive coordinator, before taking the head job at USF earlier this month. Despite his importance to Dabo Swinney‘s success, there won’t be too much change for the defending national champions moving forward.

Friday, Swinney confirmed that he will not be filling Scott’s co-coordinator position and will instead allow Tony Elliott to serve as the sole coordinator. Elliott and Scott have shared coordinating responsibilities each of the past five seasons.

Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will maintain his current responsibilities as well as add the title of passing-game coordinator.

Additionally, Tyler Grisham, who played for the Tigers from 2005-08, has been promoted to wide receivers coach, a responsibility previously held by Scott. Grisham had been serving as an offensive analyst for the program.

“We have a good plan for all that stuff and have a great group of people here,” the head coach said. “We’re excited about getting it all settled out.”

Swinney also reiterated that, as had previously been laid out, Scott will return to the team next Thursday and will remain through however long the Tigers’ postseason run lasts. Clemson will face Ohio State Dec. 28 in one of the two College Football Playoff semifinals.

Ohio State’s Justin Fields the way-too-early 2020 Heisman favorite

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You say the tears aren’t even dry yet from Joe Burrow‘s acceptance speech and we’re already looking ahead to 2020?  You’re damn right we are.

Saturday night, Burrow claimed the 2019 Heisman Trophy in record-smashing fashion, with the quarterback becoming just the second LSU Tiger to claim the most prestigious trophy in the sport.  Quarterback Justin Fields finished third in the voting, one of three Ohio State Buckeyes to land in the top six in the voting.

Speaking of Fields, one online sportsbook has the sophomore listed as a 5/2 favorite to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy.  Fellow sophomore Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is right behind him at 3/1.

The next closest is Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at 7/1.

A handful of the players who finished in the Top 10 in the voting — Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, Ohio State running back JK Dobbins, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — have eligibility remaining, but are expected to leave early for the NFL draft.  If any of them opt to remain in school, that would obviously change the odds moving forward.

USC transfer QB Jack Sears appears headed to San Diego State

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Jack Sears may have left USC, but it doesn’t appear he’ll end up leaving the state of California.

After finding himself fourth on the quarterbacking depth chart, Sears announced on his personal Twitter account in late August that he had decided to enter the NCAA transfer database.  A little over three months later, and after a flirtation with Oregon State, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that “Sears has committed to San Diego State as a graduate transfer who would enroll during the spring semester.”

As a graduate transfer, Sears would be eligible to play for the Aztecs in 2020.  He would also have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

As of yet, the Mountain West Conference school hasn’t confirmed Sears’ intentions.

Sears was a four-star member of the Trojans’ 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Sears completed 20-of-28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown the following season.