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Can Ohio State land Big Ten’s first No. 1 recruiting class since 2002?

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On a day that saw Ohio State flip a pair of talented players from Maryland’s Class of 2016 and add one more nice addition to a stocked Class of 2016 haul, the Ohio State Buckeyes are, for the moment, the new recruiting kings in college football. Rivals pushed Ohio State up to No. 1 in the latest team rankings with National Signing Day just a few weeks away.

Urban Meyer and Ohio State currently have a recruiting class lined up of 21 players, which includes two players receiving five-star grades from Rivals and 14 more with a four-star ranking. The latest prizes of the recruiting season are four-star quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and five-star linebacker Keandre Jones (both flipped from Maryland) and four-star wide receiver Binjimen Victor out of Florida. Six of Ohio State’s four-star recruits in 2016 have already enrolled in Columbus, which helps put Ohio State ahead of the curve this recruiting cycle. It is not just Rivals giving the Buckeyes top accolades right now either. Scout and 247 Sports each have bumped the Buckeyes into first place as well (247 Sports‘ composite ranking also shows the Buckeyes locking down the top spot).

What remains to be seen in the weeks to come is whether or not Ohio State can manage to land the top class at the end of the signing day festivities. USC was crowned the recruiting national champion by Rivals in 2015, snapping a four-year run by Alabama from 2011 through 2014 (Alabama was second in 2015 according to Rivals). History suggests Ohio State will lose its grip on the top spot in the Rivals rankings. No Big Ten has landed the No. 1 class since 2002 according to the Rivals database. Alabama and USC have combined for 12 of the 14 classes ranked by Rivals, with Texas and LSU each landed one top class in that time. If the Buckeyes can finish strongly enough, they could make some history.

Ohio State has been light years ahead of its Big Ten rivals in the recruiting game for a while now, especially since the hiring of Meyer. Michigan has made some moves over the years but it is clear the hiring of Jim Harbaugh continues to breathe new life into the recruiting juice of the historic power in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines are currently ranked fifth in the Class of 2016 team rankings and could make a push for the top spot in the rankings as well. Meanwhile, Michigan State (No. 11) and Penn State (No. 18) are the only other Big Ten programs currently ranked in the top 25 by Rivals.

LSU (No. 2), Ole Miss (No. 3), Florida (No. 6) and Georgia (No. 9) are all currently sitting in front of Alabama, which feels odd right now, but expect the Crimson Tide to benefit from some later decisions on and around national signing day for a final push. The Crimson Tide also should get a nice championship game victory bump, as if they need it.

Clemson (No. 7) is just ahead of division rival Florida State (No. 8) for now, and each could end up making some late noise on signing day, as is typically the case. North Carolina (No. 16) and Miami (No. 19) are also floating in the middle of the top 25 and even Duke (No. 25) is hanging on to a top 25 recruiting class.

As things stand right now, just two Big 12 teams are currently ranked among the top 25 recruiting classes. Baylor (No. 10) and TCU (No. 24) are the lone representatives among the top 25 of the Rivals rankings. Oklahoma is sitting at No. 27. If you are a Texas fan, brace yourself. Texas Tech (No. 37) and West Virginia (No. 40), not to mention Houston (No.28) are all currently ranked ahead of the Longhorns (No. 42).

In the Pac-12, UCLA (No. 13) is on track for another talented recruiting haul, but USC (No. 18) can always make a late push as well. Both have done well on signing day in recent years, and that trend could continue. Defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, the kings of football in California when it comes to results on the field, are also looking to sign a top 20 class. Meanwhile, Oregon (No. 22) continues to recruit well but continues to show a need to finish strong on the recruiting trail heading to signing day.

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

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Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

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It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

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Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

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Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.