Pac-12 South division race down to USC and UCLA

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Next week in the historic Los Angeles Coliseum, two rivals will enter but only one will leave with the Pac-12 South championship banner. Despite a loss today at Oregon, No. 24 USC (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12) will get a chance to win the Pac-12 South Division at home and earn a trip to its first Pac-12 Championship Game. Standing in the way will be rival UCLA (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12), fresh of a road win against No. 13 Utah (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12).

UCLA did what it needed to do to remain in the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South. Needing a win against Utah to secure a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Utes, UCLA got right to work out of the gate with a game-opening touchdown drive on the road (Josh Rosen to Thomas Duarte) and eventually took a 10-0 lead before letting the Utes wiggle back in with three field goals chipping away at the double-digit lead. Once Utah kicked a third field goal to cut the lead to one point, UCLA responded with a 14-play touchdown drive ending with Paul Perkins scoring a short touchdown run to put the Bruins up 17-9. That would prove to be more than enough, as that score held the rest of the way.

USC’s secondary was picked apart by Vernon Adams and Oregon in Autzen Stadium. Adams finished his day with six touchdowns thrown and 407 passing yards in a 45-28 victory over the Trojans. USC’s offense actually did some good things, outside of protecting quarterback Cody Kessler at times. Kessler avoided throwing an interception and Justin Davis led the running game with 141 yards. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had to leave the game temporarily in the first half but did return despite having to be helped off the field by trainers. USC’s defense gave up five touchdowns of at least 30 yards through the air, so they will have to find a way to tighten things up in the secondary before taking on UCLA next week. Oregon racked up 578 yards of offense in the win.

The Pac-12 South is now a two-horse race between USC and UCLA, as Utah has now been eliminated from contention. Utah needed to beat UCLA in order to stay ahead of the Trojans, but now the Utes cannot win as tiebreakers go against them. The winner of next week’s crosstown rivalry game will more than likely get a crack at Stanford. Stanford needs a win against Cal later tonight to claim the Pac-12 North title. A loss opens the door for Oregon to grab the North next week with a win over Oregon State. Stanford loses a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ducks after Oregon upset the Cardinal last week. Stanford’s Pac-12 schedule wraps up tonight and they play Notre Dame next week.

The Pac-12 Championship Game will be played on December 5 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. UCLA appeared in the first two Pac-12 championship game sin 2011 and 2012, although USC won the Pac-12 South and was ineligible for postseason play in 2012 (USC pounded UCLA 50-0 that season).

Illinois QB Jeff George Jr. moving on as graduate transfer

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Illinois quarterback Jeff George Jr., the son of former NFL quarterback Jeff George, has announced he will look for an opportunity to play football elsewhere in 2018. In a statement shared on his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon, George said he will leave Illinois with a degree in hand, allowing him to pursue a transfer possibility as a graduate transfer.

Thank you to Coach [Lovie Smith] and the entire staff for helping me develop over the past couple years,” George said in his statement on Twitter. “With that being said, after discussions with Coach Smith as well as my family, it would be in my best interest to pursue my athletic career with 2 years of eligibility left at a school that will best utilize the abilities I have to offer.”

George played in seven games for the Illini in 2017 with 1,273 passing yards and seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The only other quarterbacks on the roster to attempt a pass last season were junior Chayce Crouch (who played quarterback in seven games and had 443 passing yards with one touchdown and four interceptions Cam Thomas, a redshirt freshman in 2017. Illinois also has two other freshmen on the roster — Charlie Reinkemeyer and Connor Kelly –  that should make for an interesting quarterback situation this spring.

As a graduate transfer, George will be eligible to play in the fall at any FBS program that welcomes him to their program.

Report: Nick Saban ‘really pushing’ for Hugh Freeze, but SEC might be reluctant to sign off

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Normally what Nick Saban wants Nick Saban gets.  In this case, the head coach may have his work cut out for him.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that disgraced former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was a visitor to Alabama’s football building.  With the Crimson Tide searching for another offensive coordinator, speculation focused on Freeze as a potential candidate for the opening; others thought an in-house promotion was more likely and that Freeze could assume another role with the program.

According to the latest from the Tuscaloosa NewsAaron Suttles, “Saban is really pushing for Freeze to be an on-the-field coach,” whether it be as coordinator or, perhaps, working with quarterbacks or another positional group.  One problem, per the News, is that some within the program are pushing against such an addition, although, again, if Saban really wants Freeze as an on-field addition he’d get it regardless of who was pushing back.  Another issue, though, could be his conference.

From Suttles’ report:

Another aspect to this is that should Alabama decided to hire Freeze as an on-the-field coach, it would likely need the blessing of SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. Sankey isn’t keen on that happening, The Tuscaloosa News has learned.

The league office’s pause in one of its members giving Freeze his first post-scandal second chance is certainly understandable.

Freeze “resigned” from Ole Miss after it was discovered he was using a school-issued cell phone to hook up with escort services on multiple occasions. Additionally, there were the Rebels’ NCAA issues while Freeze was in charge that left the coach with a two-game suspension to serve; that suspension would not have to be served if Freeze is a coordinator or position coach.  The one-year show-cause Freeze was slapped with, which would impact him on the recruiting trail as a head coach, would not be in effect if he served in a non-head coach capacity.

If the SEC would indeed have an issue with the Freeze hire — and if they actually have a say in the matter — it remains to be seen how far down the Freeze road Saban is willing to travel.

Hawaii’s leading receiver, Dylan Collie, leaving as grad transfer

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Dylan Collie is again on the move, presumably for the final time.

The wide receiver took to Twitter Tuesday night to announce that he has decided it’s in his best interests to transfer from Hawaii.  Collie will be leaving the program as a graduate transfer, giving him immediate eligibility if he opts for another FBS program for his final season of eligibility.

Collie signed with BYU in 2012 but, after completing an LDS Church mission, opted to transfer to Hawaii.

This past season, Collie led the Rainbow Warriors in receptions with 56, and was second in receiving yards (636) and receiving touchdowns (four).  In three years at the Mountain West school, Collie totaled 118 catches for 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns.

Two of Dylan Collie’s brothers, Austin and Zac, played receiver at BYU.  Their father, Scott Collie, also played his college football for the Cougars.

ACC releases complete 2018 football schedule

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The 2017 season was put to bed a little over a week ago, so the focus of the college football world has shifted to 2018.

In that vein, the ACC Wednesday released its football schedule for the upcoming season.  The first game featuring a team from the conference will have Wake Forest traveling to Tulane on Thursday, Aug. 30.  The first league game sees Virginia Tech traveling to Tallahassee on Labor Day to face Florida State in a primetime matchup.

Opening weekend will also see the ACC involved in a pair of neutral-site nonconference matchups: Louisville against defending national champion Alabama in Orlando Saturday, Sept. 1, and Miami facing LSU the next day in Arlington.

There are also five previously-announced games against scheduling partner Notre Dame, including road trips to South Bend for FSU (Nov. 10) and Pitt (Oct. 13).  Wake (Sept. 22) and Virginia Tech (Oct. 6) will play host to the Irish, while Syracuse and Notre Dame will square off at Yankee Stadium Nov. 17.

The release announcing the schedule notes that ACC teams will play more games (19) against Power 5 competition than any other P5, and their members will also play 27 games against non-conference opponents that participated in bowl games last season, the highest total among Power 5 conferences.

“The 2018 ACC Football schedule provides our schools and programs the opportunity to build upon the numerous football successes that have been achieved in recent years,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford in a statement. “Once again, our teams will be facing both a daunting conference schedule and what is collectively the most challenging non-conference schedule in the country. There will be no shortage of excitement for fans on a weekly basis.”

You can click HERE for the composite schedule, HERE for the team-by-team schedule and HERE for the ever-popular logo schedule.