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Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey starts 2016 Heisman campaign with record-setting show in blowout of Iowa

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If you are looking for your 2016 Heisman Trophy frontrunner, look west. Christian McCaffrey set a Rose Bowl record with 361 all-purpose yards as No. 6 Stanford pounded No. 5 Iowa, 45-16, in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day. McCaffrey got things going on the first play of the game with a 75-yard touchdown reception from Kevin Hogan. It was the longest play from scrimmage of the year and his career for McCaffrey, and he was just getting warmed up.

McCaffrey had a busy afternoon. By the end of the game, McCaffrey became the first player in Rose Bowl history to record 100 rushing and 100 receiving yards in the Rose Bowl. He ended his season with 2,019 rushing yards to become Stanford’s first 2,000-yard rusher in school history. McCaffrey reached these marks by rushing for 172 yards and leading all players with 105 receiving yards in the lopsided victory over the Hawkeyes. If Iowa spent any time focusing on McCaffrey’s and Stanford film, it sure did not show, but that may be just how good McCaffrey and Stanford were. McCaffrey’s performance was definitely worthy of high praise, but he did not do it all alone, if you can believe that.

Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan turned in an admirable performance as well, passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another score. Stanford’s defense held Iowa to 5-of-17 on third down and allowed just 51 rushing yards. Iowa managed just 290 yards of offense and they needed three fourth-down conversions to help get there. Stanford head coach David Shaw is now 3-2 in bowl games as head coach of the Cardinal, and that now includes two Rose Bowl victories. This Stanford program is not going to be going anywhere any time soon in the Pac-12, it continues to be the gold standard college football program in the same state that is home to USC and UCLA.

Stanford was left out of the College Football Playoff, but by halftime the Cardinal had Twitter blazing about reasons why the College Football Playoff selection committee either got the top four teams wrong or why the playoff should be expanded. Given how Alabama and Clemson seemed to handle Michigan State and Oklahoma, respectively, it was pretty easy to make a case that Stanford should have been in the mix. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, and the Cardinal lost two games this season. Many will point to Stanford’s season-opening loss at Northwestern as the main reason why Stanford was left out, but a later loss to Oregon may have been more damaging in a “what have you done for me lately” sport.

This loss should not take away too much from the overall success of the season Iowa experienced. Though the Hawkeyes ended the year with two straight losses, Iowa put together some memorable moments en route to an undefeated regular season, which saw them come up just shy of a likely spot in the College Football Playoff. Kirk Ferentz may not have a program locked and loaded for a repeat performance in 2016, which makes a season like this as special as it coudl be.

McCaffrey was this season’s best all-around player in college football, and he accomplished something no other player had done since the 2010 season by scoring a touchdown with a pass, a run, a reception, a punt return and a kickoff return. Troy’s Jerrel Jernigan was the last player to accomplish the rare feat. LSU running back Leonard Fournette ended his 2015 season on a high note as well with a big showing in LSU’s bowl victory over Texas Tech. McCaffrey and Fournette will be the top two Heisman Trophy candidates in the running over the summer months and as the preseason plays out leading up to the start of the 2016 season. Next year, McCaffrey will no longer be in hiding out west, and nobody will be late to picking up who he is. McCaffrey was not as hidden in the west coast late kickoffs as many believe he was, but he did not have his biggest games when most people were watching (Notre Dame, for example).

Akron earns second-ever spot in MAC championship game

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Akron came into Week 13 needing to either win or rely on someone else to lose.  In the end, the Zips decided to just go ahead and punch their own ticket to the Motor City, thank you very much.

Jumping out to a 24-7 halftime lead Tuesday night, that margin proved to be more than enough for Akron as they easily cruised past rival Kent State in a 24-14 win.  Kent actually outgained its hosts 246-191, but a fumble return for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the second quarter essentially sealed the win for Akron.

Both Akron and Ohio entered this week tied atop the MAC East at 5-2.  However, the Zips beat the Bobcats in Week 12, meaning Akron is the first MAC team to claim a spot in the conference championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field next weekend.

This will mark the Zips’s second-ever title-game appearance, with the first coming in 2005.  That season, Akron beat Northern Illinois 31-30 for its first-ever conference championship.

Akron will play either NIU (6-1) or Toledo (6-1) in this year’s title game, although it’s trending heavily toward the Rockets as they own the head-to-head with the Huskies.  So, the possibilities?

Toledo wins the West with either a win over Western Michigan OR an NIU loss. Northern Illinois needs to beat Central Michigan AND have Toledo lose to WMU at home to win the division.

Report: Florida appears ready to move on from Chip Kelly pursuit if deal isn’t consummated soon

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Florida’s search for a new head coach could very shortly be ready to take another twist.

Despite a certain former Head Ball Coach saying UF’s new head coach would be a current one, speculation on Jim McElwain‘s replacement has seemingly centered on Chip Kelly over the last few days. In fact, a group of UF officials headed by athletic director Scott Stricklin and president Kent Fuchs visited with Kelly in New Hampshire over the weekend to discuss the job.

While it walks, talks and smells like the university has targeted Kelly as its top choice, it appears they want an answer, one way or the other, from the former Oregon head coach sooner rather than later. From Yahoo! SportsPat Forde:

But with other potential candidates becoming available for discussion this weekend, Florida officials appear to be ready to move on shortly after Thanksgiving if a deal has not been struck with Kelly.

Potentially mucking up the works in Gainesville is UCLA, which fired Jim Mora Sunday and is also said to be targeting Kelly as a replacement.  In fact, it’s being reported that the Bruins’ search contingent has already met with Kelly.

UCF’s Scott Frost, who is believed to be Nebraska’s top choice when/when it moves on from Mike Riley, and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen are thought to be likely targets should either Kelly snub the Gators or they move on.

One very likely reason for UF’s reported urgency for a decision from Kelly is the revamped recruiting calendar. This year marks the first time that there’s an early signing period in football, with Class of 2018 recruits given a 72-hour window from Dec. 20-22 to sign their National Letters of Intent.

The sooner UF can wrap up its search, the sooner its new coach and his staff can try to hold together some semblance of a first recruiting class with the program – especially with two SEC programs, Tennessee and Ole Miss, already looking for a head coach while a couple of others (Arkansas, Texas A&M) could be on the hunt as early as this coming weekend as well.

Miami jumps Clemson, Wisconsin remains No. 5 in latest CFP rankings

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The third-to-last edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were released Tuesday night, and the only changes in the top 12 came at spot No. 2, where Miami jumped Clemson ahead of the pair’s ACC title clash on Dec. 2.

USC remained the highest-ranked Pac-12 team at No. 11, dimming any hopes the Pac-12 could back-door its way into the top four should chaos reign elsewhere. The Trojans were one spot ahead of TCU and two spots ahead of the Pac-12’s second-highest ranked team in Washington State. Central Florida again led all Group of 5 teams at No. 15.

Virginia Tech re-joined the rankings at No. 25, one spot behind the debut rankings for South Carolina.

The top 25:

1. Alabama
2. Miami
3. Clemson
4. Oklahoma
5. Wisconsin
6. Auburn
7. Georgia
8. Notre Dame
9. Ohio State
10. Penn State
11. USC
12. TCU
13. Washington State
14. Mississippi State
15. Central Florida
16. Michigan State
17. Washington
18. LSU
19. Oklahoma State
20. Memphis
21. Stanford
22. Northwestern
23. Boise State
24. South Carolina
25. Virginia Tech

Report: LSU victory would not save Kevin Sumlin’s job

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Kevin Sumlin said Tuesday afternoon he expects to be Texas A&M’s head coach in 2018. A report Tuesday night says otherwise.

Sumlin will be fired in the day or days following Saturday’s game with No. 20 LSU, win or lose, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle. The Aggies are 0-5 against LSU under Sumlin and double-digit underdogs for Saturday’s game in Baton Rouge. The Chronicle‘s report is not the first to proclaim Sumlin’s future firing, but it is the most definitive.

Sumlin is 7-4 (4-3 SEC) this season and 51-25 overall, a mark that ranks in the top-third of the SEC since joining the league in 2012 — but Sumlin is not paid to deliver top-third results. His program failed to live up to the standard set in that debut campaign, with an 11-2 mark, a win in Tuscaloosa, a Cotton Bowl blowout of Oklahoma and a Heisman Trophy for Johnny Manziel.

The Chronicle reported that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher will be A&M’s top target to replace Sumlin.