No. 23 Duke escapes Blacksburg with quadruple OT win

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With the game on the line in the first four-overtime game in ACC history, Thomas Sirk pushed up the middle of a short field for a game-winning two-point conversion attempt to keep No. 23 Duke perfect in ACC play. The wild 45-43 victory at Virginia Tech keeps the Blue Devils in a favorable position in the ACC Coastal Division and helps them keep pace with Pittsburgh and North Carolina in the division standings.

Duke and Virginia Tech exchanged field goals in the first overtime, and then traded touchdowns in the second. Bucky Hodges scored one for the Hokies from 11 yards out and Anthony Nash hauled in a short touchdown pass from Thomas Sirk to force the game to a third overtime on Duke’s possession. In that third overtime, the teams once again exchanged field goals to lead to a fourth overtime. It was the first four-overtime game for both schools.

Duke seemed to take firm control of the game in the third quarter when Shaun Wilson ripped off a 58-yard touchdown, putting Duke up 21-10. However, the Hokies put together a time-consuming 20-yard play to cover 95 yards for a gritty touchdown, with Travon McMillian doing the honors on a short two-yard run to make it a one-score game late in the third quarter. Duke added a field goal early in the fourth quarter to extend its lead to eight points. Virginia Tech strung together another long touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, going 83 yards on 12 plays, the last being a 23-yard touchdown catch for Bucky Hodges from Michael Brewer.

Duke is now bowl-eligible for the fourth straight season.The Blue Devils have lost each of the last three bowl trips and will continue looking for the first postseason bowl victory in school history since winning the Cotton Bowl at the end of the 1960 season. Where that bowl game will be still remains to be seen. For now, Duke still has other business to attend to.

Next up for Duke will be another important ACC Coastal Division game. The Blue Devils will host Miami in Durham next week, with the Hurricanes coming in looking to move on from an awful 58-0 home loss to Clemson. Miami won last year’s game, 22-10, and has not lost in Durham since 1976. This is a pivotal, make-or-break stretch for Duke. After Miami, Duke plays at North cArolina and then hosts Pittsburgh. Duke’s fate in the ACC Coastal Division could be set in these next three games.

Virginia Tech will hope to rebound on the road next week when the Hokies head north to take on Boston College. The Hokies are starting to flirt with an unfortunate postseason fate. Three wins shy of bowl eligibility, Virginia Tech must win three of their final four games. With road trips to Boston College, Georgia Tech and Virginia to go with a home game against North Carolina, a bowl trip is still within reasonable reach for Virginia Tech. The Hokies have not missed the postseason since 1992. The end of the Frank Beamer era in Blacksburg appears to be ending on a disappointing note.

Former 49ers executive reportedly joining Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor

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Jim Harbaugh is reaching back to his NFL days for the latest hire at Michigan.

Veteran Bay Area journalist Tim Kawakami reports that recent San Francisco 49ers personnel executive Tom Gamble is headed to Ann Arbor to join the Wolverines staff.

According to the fine folks over at sister site ProFootballTalk, Gamble left the 49ers in February shortly after John Lynch was hired by the franchise as general manager. He worked with Harbaugh when their tenures with San Francisco overlapped in 2011 and 2012 before Gamble eventually departed for a two-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles.

It’s unclear what role specifically Gamble will take with the Wolverines as Harbaugh already hired a new director of player personnel this year by bringing Sean Magee over from Navy. The former 49ers executive doesn’t have much college experience in the past few decades beyond scouting so it will be interesting to see what his official title at Michigan will be once formally announced by the school.

Either way, it seems like Harbaugh is fully investing in off-the-field roles like his peers at Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State and he is not shying away from reaching into the NFL ranks to do so.

Big Ten media poll picks Ohio State to win league, Wisconsin to capture West Division

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The Big Ten conference office turns their nose up at doing an official media poll to pick the winner of the league like all of their other peers in college football but the fine folks over at Cleveland.com have been filling in the gap for the past several years so fans, coaches and others can get a sense at which teams are the favorites to hoist the trophy at the end of the year.

The site just released the latest edition of their annual media poll and (surprise, surprise) Ohio State was picked by 29 of the 38 voters to win the Big Ten this season, including 34 first-place votes for the Buckeyes to capture the rugged East Division title. Penn State drew seven first place votes while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan squad received just one person’s confidence in winning the division.

Wisconsin was the heavy favorite to represent the West in Indianapolis with 31 first place votes, followed by Northwestern (five) and Nebraska (two). Fittingly,  22 media members from around the league picked the Buckeyes to beat the Badgers in the conference championship game, compared to just three who reversed the outcome. Not surprisingly, 34 of the 38 voters said at least one Big Ten team will make this year’s College Football Playoff, with Ohio State being the overwhelming pick to represent the league with 26 votes.

A word of warning however as Cleveland.com notes that the poll has never successfully picked the Big Ten winner in six preseason polls and Ohio State has only ever won the conference when they were not the choice by the media.

Walter Camp releases 2017 Player of the Year Watch List

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Another day, another watch list for a major college football world.

The Walter Camp Foundation released their preseason watch list for the annual Player of the Year award and not surprisingly it has all of the usual stars from around the sport, including last year’s winner Lamar Jackson and the favorite for just about every award in 2017, USC’s Sam Darnold.

The foundation didn’t just stick with quarterbacks and pass rushers however, they also did the noble thing and included one kicker and one punter on their watch list. Kudos for recognizing that special teams players are watch list candidates too. The full list is below.

Quarterbacks

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, Jr.

Jake Browning, QB, Washington, Jr.

JT Barrett, QB, Ohio State, Sr.

Sam Darnold, QB, USC, Soph.

Luke Falk, QB, Washington State, Sr.

Quinton Flowers, QB, USF, Sr.

Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State, Soph.

Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama, Soph.

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, Jr.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma, Sr.

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State, Sr.

Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State, Jr.

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Jr.

Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State, Jr.

Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky, Sr.

Running Backs 

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State, Jr.

Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia, Sr.

Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama, Jr.

Jarvion Franklin, RB, Western Michigan, Sr.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon, Sr.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, Jr.

Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern, Sr.

Jalin Moore, RB, Appalachian State, Jr.

Rashaad Penny, RB/KR, San Diego State, Sr.

Mark Walton, RB, Miami (Fla.), Jr.

Wide Receivers/Special Teams/Lineman 

Daniel Carlson, PK, Auburn, Sr.

Quadree Henderson, WR/KR, Pittsburgh, Jr.

Billy Price, OL, Ohio State, Sr.

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, Jr.

James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State, Sr.

Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah, Jr.

Defense

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama, Jr.

Rashan Gary, DT, Michigan, Soph.

Derwin James, DB, Florida State

Arden Key, LB, LSU, Sr.

Harold Landry, DE, Boston College, Sr.

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson, Soph.

Tyquan Lewis, DL, Ohio State, Sr.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston, Soph.

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, Jr.

Lane Kiffin trolls Ole Miss with latest Twitter follows

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Lane Kiffin is back in the news for doing Lane Kiffin things.

Just hours after Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze resigned after discovery of phone calls to escort service, the Florida Atlantic coach decided to pop up into everybody’s timeline and subtly troll the Rebels with some recent Twitter followers. Some will interpret following the Ole Miss accounts as being a subtle way to send interest in moving to Oxford after the season but in reality this is more of Lane being Lane, especially considering his brother is wrapped up in the school’s NCAA infractions case.

We’re sure the rest of the SEC (outside of those in Oxford) will enjoy a little chuckle over the move but something says at least a few Ole Miss fans will now be intrigued about the prospect of Kiffin taking over the program.