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Ole Miss keeps SEC West hopes alive with win over Auburn

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The No. 19 Ole Miss Rebels (7­-2, 4-­1 SEC) put together a strong second half on the road to keep their SEC championship game hopes alive Saturday afternoon at Auburn (4­-4, 1­-4). A pair of explosive scoring plays off the arm of Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly to Derrick Jones and Laquon Treadwell led Ole Miss to a 27­-19 victory.

This was a special game for Treadwell of course. Last season Treadwell’s season came to a painful end against the Tigers when he broke his leg trying to reach for a score. He has had some time to think about his next game against Auburn, and it may have been worth the wait. Treadwell hauled in six passes for 93 yards before delivering the knockout blow, in the fourth quarter, on a 21-yard touchdown catch. He ended his game with seven catches for 114 yards, his fourth consecutive game with at least 100 yards receiving.

Kelly completed 33 of his 51 pass attempts for 381 yards and two touchdowns, with two intercepted passes. Damore’ea Stringfellow caught eight passes for 71 yards to serve as a nice complement to Treadwell’s production. The leading receiver in the game though played on the losing side of the football. Ricardo Louis led all players with 137 receiving yards, including a 47­-yard touchdown catch that slipped by the Ole Miss defense over the middle of the field in the first half. That gave Auburn a 10-­3 lead at the time, but the Rebels regained some momentum later in the first half and continued using it to their advantage in the second half.

Ole Miss has now won two straight games since tripping up on the road at Memphis a few weeks ago. The Rebels are still also in position to win the SEC West, although it must finish strong and take care of their own schedule to continue making a trip to Atlanta a possibility. That backend of the schedule still includes a game against LSU after a bye week and a road trip to rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Still, Ole Miss holds a head­-to-­head tiebreaker over Alabama, which could come in handy. Alabama faces LSU next week in a game Ole Miss fans will be paying very close attention to.

Auburn is now faced with a rather difficult path to the postseason, which would be a shocking development to those who hyped the Tigers leading into the season. The Tigers make a visit to Kyle Field next Saturday to take on the Texas A&M Aggies and then return home the following week to face Georgia. Assuming a win in either would be unwise, but the next-­to-­last game against Idaho should be a win. That could, hypothetically, mean Auburn will have to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl in the final game of the season in order to clinch bowl eligibility. Auburn needs to win two of their final four games in order to meet the NCAA minimum victories to qualify for a bowl game.

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.