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Sparty clips Ducks, shows it’s firmly entrenched in playoff discussion

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If this game was a litmus test for Michigan State’s national stage worthiness, Sparty passed — by the skin of its teeth, some would say.  And notwithstanding some quizzical late-game playcalling, others would add.

Last year in Eugene, Oregon took a six-point halftime deficit and turned it into a 19-point runaway win.  A dozen months later, the Spartans took a seven-point halftime lead in East Lansing and turned it into a proclamation of sorts, with their 31-28 win vividly announcing that MSU will be in the College Football Playoff talk for the duration.

Sure, there are potential potholes along the way — like at Michigan, Nebraska and Ohio State in the coming weeks and months — but Sparty showed Saturday night that it can stand toe-to-toe with one of the best college football has to offer and not blink (much).  In fact, it can throw some knockout haymakers of its own — especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Leading 14-7 at the half, MSU pushed the lead out to 10 points twice in the second half, the second coming with 10:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.  The Ducks then pulled to within three at 31-28 with 3:25 remaining on a 15-yards touchdown pass from FCS transfer Vernon Adams to Byron Marshall.  Then came the quizzical, and on both sides.

On the first play of the ensuing possession and starting at their own 22-yard line, a five-yard loss was followed by two inexplicable Connor Cook pass attempts and two incompletions that stopped the clock.  The Spartans were only able to run a little over a minute off the clock, giving the ball back to the Ducks with just over two minutes remaining and just shy of midfield.  After getting the ball down to the MSU 33 and into field-goal range, and facing a third-and-six, Adams did something you simply can’t do in that situation, even in the face of the blitz: he took a sack.  Adams’ pass on fourth-and-16 fell incomplete, essentially icing the game for the Spartans.

Regardless of how it ended, it was a huge win for Mark Dantonio and his football program, one that should resonate with voters — and, more importantly, the playoff committee — when it comes to both squads.  Sparty in particular, though, showed the kind of resilience and resolve and talent that will serve them well as they face some stiff road trips on down the road.

All is not lost for the Ducks, mind you.  Should UO run the table and claim the Pac-12 title, they would certainly be deep in the discussion for a playoff spot — especially if MSU were to be able to run the table as well.

Bill Snyder adds two former K-State football players to Wildcats staff

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As has become customary, Bill Snyder has added familiar faces to his Kansas State staff.

K-State announced late Tuesday morning that Snyder has hired former Wildcats football players Zach Hanson and Eric Hickson.  The former will serve as tight ends coach as well as help with the offensive line, while the latter will coach running backs.

In its release, the football program noted that K-State now has seven full-time coaches who played for the Wildcats, the most former players coaching at their alma mater among all FBS staffs.

“I am pleased to have Zach and Eric back with us,” Snyder said in a statement. “Both have proven their capabilities not only as very successful position coaches and teachers, but also in the development of quality and valued young men. They both have a genuine interest in the life skills enhancement of those they work with. Having also been highly successful student-athletes in our program, they believe in and understand our program.”

Hickson spent the past three seasons as the running backs coach at Akron.  That was Hickson’s first coaching job at the FBS level.

A running back at K-State, he left the program in 1998 as the school’s all-time leading rusher; he now stands fifth on that list.

After Hanson finished up his playing career at K-State in 2011, he spent four years at his alma mater (2012-15) as a graduate assistant and quality control coach.  The past two seasons, he was a graduate assistant working with special teams and tight ends at North Carolina.

This will also be Hanson’s first full-time job at the FBS level.

Terry McLaurin’s decision to stay means Ohio State’s top six receivers returning in 2018

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With Ohio State breaking in a new starting quarterback in 2018, this is latest in what’s been a long line of welcome news for the Buckeyes.

Terry McLaurin confirmed on Instagram Monday night that he will be returning to the Buckeyes for another season.  The wide receiver was third on the Buckeyes last season with 29 receptions, 436 yards and six receiving touchdowns.

Thank you Lord for another opportunity. #last1

A post shared by terry_25 (@terry_25) on

Previously, wide receiver Johnnie Dixon, fourth on the team in receiving yards, announced his decision to return, as did OSU’s leading receiver in yards, H-back Parris Campbell. The Buckeyes’ leader in catches, K.J. Hill, could also have left early for the NFL.

With all of these decisions to stay, it means the Buckeyes will return its top six receivers in yards: Campbell (584), Hill (549), McLaurin (436), Dixon (422), Binjimen Victor (349) and Austin Mack (343). Those six also accounted for 29 of OSU’s 39 receiving touchdowns.

Tight end Marcus Baugh, who was fourth in receptions with 28 and seventh in yards with 304, is the most productive member of the passing game to depart as the senior has used up his eligibility.

Tennessee QB Quinten Dormady transferring from Vols

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Quinten Dormady began the 2017 season as Tennessee’s starting quarterback.  He’ll begin the 2018 season wearing a different uniform.

The erstwhile starter announced on his personal Twitter account Monday that, “[a]fter weeks of reflection, I’ve decided to transfer from Tennessee and transfer for my final year of eligibility.” As a graduate transfer, Dormady would be eligible to play this season at another FBS program.

In starting the first five games of this past season, Dormady had accounted for eight turnovers, six of which were the result of interceptions. Five of those picks came in losses to Florida (three) and Georgia (two).

Coming off a bye, redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano started the Week 7 loss to South Carolina after Dormady was benched following the loss to UGA.  Prior to the Week 9 road trip to Kentucky, it was reported that Dormady would be sidelined the remainder of the year because of a shoulder injury.

Dormady completed 76-of-137 passes (55.5%) for 925 yards, six touchdowns and the six interceptions this past season.  The 6-4, 222-pound junior finishes the Vols portion of his playing career with 1,282 yards, seven touchdown and six picks.  He also ran the ball 22 times for a total of 21 yards.

Chip Kelly and UCLA land ex-Washington QB K.J. Carta-Samuels

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K.J. Carta-Samuels may have left Washington, but he’s not leaving the Pac-12.

Carta-Samuels brother, Austyn, revealed on his own personal Twitter account that K.J. will be transferring to UCLA. “Chip Kelly, you just got yourself a QB,” the recruiting coordinator at Missouri wrote.

The younger Carta-Samuels brother subsequently told CBSSports.com that Kelly is “a huge reason why” he chose to move on to the Bruins.

In early December, Carta-Samuels announced that he would be leaving Chris Petersen‘s Washington football program.

Carta-Samuels will be joining Kelly’s squad as a graduate transfer, which means he’ll be one of the players fighting for the right to replace three-year-starting quarterback Josh Rosen. Earlier this month, Rosen did the somewhat expected and left early for the NFL draft.

A four-star member of UW’s 2014 recruiting class, Carta-Samuels was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of California. Budda Baker, a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was the only signee in the Huskies’ class that year rated higher than Carta-Samuels.

Carta-Samuels played in 25 games over the past three seasons. He ended the Huskies portion of his collegiate playing career with 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in completing 27-of-47 passes.