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No. 6 Baylor shows signs of mortality in win at K-State

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So, it’s come to this. Baylor, ranked sixth in the country, winners of all eight games this season and 34 of their last 38, wins 31-24 at Kansas State and we’re left picking nits. But such is life when you play to win games and impress the 12 oracles on the College Football Playoff selection committee.

First, the good. Jarrett Stidham made his first career start in relief of the injured Seth Russell and looked, well, nothing like a true freshman making his first career start in a road conference game. The true freshman completed 23-of-33 passes for 419 yards (10th most in Baylor history) and three touchdowns (plus another rushing score) with no turnovers. He smartly found certain All-American and Belitnikoff finalist Corey Coleman early and often, including a 36-yard connection on the first play from scrimmage, setting the stage for a 7-0 Baylor lead just 1:46 into the game, and an 81-yard touchdown strike to give the Bears a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter. For the game, Coleman snared 11 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, bringing the junior to an astounding 58 grabs for 1,178 yards and 20 touchdowns – with still a full third of the regular season to go.

K.D. Cannon also added four receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown, and Jay Lee scored four grabs for 61 yards.

That said, the Bears did miss Russell on Thursday evening.

Baylor did not run the ball like a team that entered the game ranked third nationally at 338.3 yards per game. Not even close. The Bears squeezed out only 103 yards on 34 carries, led by Shock Linwood‘s 13 carries for 72 yards. The 93 yards and 3.03 yards per carry easily stand as Baylor’s lowest outputs this season.

And while the offense racked up 533 yards on 8.2 yards per snap, it failed to put the game away after leading 21-7 at the half and 31-10 with 12:20 remaining. Baylor came up empty on three second half possessions, including their final touch, which ended in a missed 41-yard field goal by Chris Callahan, which gave Kansas State one last chance to send the game to overtime with 51 seconds remaining.

Part of the reason Baylor could not put the pesky Wildcats away was that the Bears’ defense couldn’t get K-State off the field. Running what amounted to a glorified version of the veer offense, Joe Huebner led the Wildcats by completing 12-of-21 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown (with an interception) to go with 29 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns (with a fumble). Charles Jones added 16 rushes for 76 yards. In all, the Wildcats rushed 48 times for 252 yards, and that consistent ground success allowed K-State to simply sit on the football. Their first possession, a 17-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, lasted nine minutes and 21 seconds. After falling behind 31-10, Kansas State methodically climbed back in the game by moving 84 yards in five plays to pull within 31-17, and then marching 77 yards in seven snaps to climb within one score.

Baylor’s defense did end the game for good after Callahan’s missed field goal when Terrell Burt sniffed out a trick play and intercepted a double pass from wide receiver Kody Cook on the first play of the Wildcats’ ensuing possession.

So while Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) will not play another team quite like Kansas State (3-5, 0-5 Big 12) in its quest for a third straight Big 12 title, each of the other three teams vying for the league crown saw something Thursday night they can use against Art Briles and company.

Then again, perhaps we’re being too hard on these Bears. After all, Robert Griffin III lost in Manhattan on his way to winning the 2011 Heisman Trophy, and Bryce Petty also needed 59 minutes to put away the SnyderCats on his way to the 2013 Big 12 title. Stidham stands quite tall when stacked against those guys.

But this much is clear: after eight weeks of prelude, Baylor’s do-or-die three-game season begins next Saturday against Oklahoma, and it’ll take a more complete effort than what the Bears showed Thursday night to beat the Sooners.

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 to give Todd Orlando raise to $1.7 million per 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: ‘Resource issues in ACC vs. 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.