WHO: Georgia (9-3) vs. Penn State (7-5)
WHAT: The 71st TaxSlayer Bowl
WHERE: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
WHEN: 12:00 pm ET, January 2 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Georgia and Penn State may not bring the best offenses to Jacksonville, but they sure do have some solid defenses. That should make for a scrappy game on both sides of the field, and it might be a bit of a sloppy one too.
Georgia made it to Jacksonville undergoing a coaching transition. With Mark Richt let go (and since being hired by Miami; Georgia has since hired Alabama defensive cooridnator Kirby Smart, who is sticking with the Crimson Tide through the national championship game), the Georgia preparations have had to be done under interim head coach Bryan McClendon as the entire staff undergoes some changes. What that means for the execution and preparedness of the Bulldogs remains to be seen. Also, what will the morale of the team be like? One thing viewers should count on is seeing Georgia linebacker Jake Ganus lead the defense. The former UAB linebacker landed at Georgia after the UAB program temporarily shut down at the end of last season, and he quickly made an impact in Athens and earned the respect of his teammates. Ganus was voted a team MVP this season and a chance to play in a bowl game after UAB was left without an invitation last season will not be taken lightly. Ganus will be extra important because Georgia will be without Davin Bellamy due to a leg practice suffered in practice this week.
When it comes to defense, this is where Penn State typically shines as well, although there have been some games where the defense has been gassed. The extra time off to regropup and recuperate from a brutal end to the season could come in handy for Penn State. Award-winning pass rusher Carl Nassib will lead the defensive front for Penn State against a shaky at best Georgia offense. Nassib, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson will first try to shut down any running lanes Georgia will try to expose. If Penn State can take away the running game, that puts the pressure on Georgia’s unreliable passing game. Of course, Penn State has their own concerns with passing stability with hot and cold Christian Hackenberg playing behind a shaky offensive line.
Both teams bring talented young 1,000-yard running backs to the game as well. Georgia sophomroe Sony Michel (1,076 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has become Georgia’s go-to back while Penn State freshman Saquon Barkley (1,007 rushing yards, 7 TDs) has turned in quite an impressive debut season.
THE PREDICTION: Georgia 23, Penn State 20
The departure of a longtime UCLA staffer has officially been confirmed.
Late last week, reports surfaced that Angus McClure was leaving UCLA for a position at Nevada. Tuesday, the Mountain West Conference football program confirmed that McClure has been hired as Jay Norvell‘s new offensive line coach.
McClure had been with the Bruins since 2007, serving at various times as position coach for both sides of UCLA’s lines as well as special teams. Most recently, McClure had served as recruiting coordinator for the Pac-12 school.
McClure and Norvell have a prior working relationship as they were both on the same staffs at Nebraska and UCLA.
In addition to McClure, David Lockwood was announced as Nevada’s new safeties coach. Lockwood was on the UNLV staff last season after spending the previous three years as the cornerbacks coach at Arizona.
“I think we made our staff stronger with these two veteran hires,” Norvell said in a statement. “I’m excited about the experience and expertise that we have added to the Wolf Pack coaching staff.”
Former Kansas State head coach Jim Dickey died on Saturday night at the age of 84.
A Texas native, Dickey played quarterback at Houston in the 1950’s and started his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater. From there he took assistant jobs at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas and North Carolina before landing the K-State job ahead of the 1978 season. He went 25-53-2 in seven-plus seasons on the job, which doesn’t look like much at first blush until one takes stock of where the Wildcat football program was at the time.
Dickey took Kansas State to the Independence Bowl in 1982, a 14-3 loss to Wisconsin, which was the first bowl appearance in program history. He was named the Big 8’s Coach of the Year for that season.
After back-to-back 3-win seasons in 1983 and ’84, he was let go after an 0-2 start to the 1985 campaign. The program would remain historically down until future College Football Hall of Famer Bill Snyder built the program up in the 1990’s.
Dickey finished out his career as an assistant on the pre-Steve Spurrier Florida teams before retiring in 1989. He lived at a rest home in Houston at the time of his passing, according to the Manhattan Mercury. Dickey’s son, Darrell Dickey, is the former head coach at North Texas and currently the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M.
The Oregon coaching staff is going to have a specific South Florida flavor to it. Head coach Mario Cristobal is a Miami native, a former Hurricanes player and assistant, and the former head coach at Florida International. On Tuesday, Cristobal moved to bring a fellow South Floridian with him to the Pacific Northwest.
According to Grant Traylor of the Huntington (W. Va.) Herald-Dispatch, Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal is leaving the staff to reunite with Cristobal in Eugene.
Sports Illustrated‘s Bruce Feldman added Mirabal will work under Cristobal, who will handle the offensive line.
Mirabal is also a native of Miami and a Florida International graduate. He spent the first decade-plus of his career working in Miami’s high school ranks before joining Cristobal’s FIU staff as tight ends and later offensive line coach from 2007-12. He landed at Marshall in 2013 after Cristobal was forced out at FIU, where he remained until Tuesday.
Under Mirabal’s guidance, Marshall finished fourth nationally in sacks allowed at just 0.85 per game. Oregon finished 54th nationally in that same metric.
As we trudge deeper into the college football offseason, roster attrition across the sport has shown no signs of slowing down.
It was confirmed Tuesday that three players have decided to take their leave of the Missouri football program. Two of the departees are defensive backs (redshirt freshman Jerod Alton, redshirt sophomore TJ Warren) while the other is a wide receiver (redshirt junior Ray Wingo).
All three of the transferring players were three-star recruits coming out of high school. Wingo, who moved to receiver after his redshirt season in 2014, was the highest-rated of the group, with 247Sports.com pegging him as the No. 24 cornerback in the country and the No. 4 player at any position in the state of Missouri.
After catching five passes for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns in 2016, Wingo didn’t record a reception at all in 2017. He’ll finish the Mizzou portion of his playing career with 167 yards and those two touchdowns on his nine receptions.
Warren played in 18 games the past two seasons, including six last year. He started one of those games, with that coming during the 2016 season.
Alton took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.