WHO: No. 18 Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
WHAT: The 83rd Sun Bowl
WHEN: December 30, 2 p.m. ET on CBS
WHERE: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
THE SKINNY: One of the oldest bowl games in the country will be ground zero for NFL scouts in late December as Stanford’s star tailback Christian McCaffrey closes out his career on the Farm facing off against one of the most buzz-worthy names in scouting circles in UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
For the Cardinal, a trip to El Paso isn’t exactly how they imagined where they’d wind up in the postseason after being picked to win the Pac-12 for the first time in school history. They bounced back from several early season losses to get to a still-impressive nine wins and did so using a familiar formula in paving the way for McCaffrey to do his thing on the ground and through the air. The Stanford defense also closed the season strong behind stud defensive end Solomon Thomas.
North Carolina didn’t end the season on a high note however, sandwiching a win over an FCS opponent between two losses to rival schools in the Triangle. The Tar Heels are still one of the more entertaining teams in the country and led by their dangerous triumvirate on offense in ace receiver/return man Ryan Switzer, tailback Elijah Hood and Trubisky. All three are a load to handle and should be fun to watch together one last time. While coordinator Gene Chizik has done a solid job turning around the UNC defense, this year’s unit isn’t quite as stout against the run and is allowing 236 yards per game.
That’s not a formula for success against a Stanford team that loves to pound opponents between the tackles. The latest edition of the Sun Bowl should be a fairly high scoring one given some of the offensive firepower involved on both sides but in the end, McCaffrey and the Cardinal take home the victory.
THE PREDICTION: Stanford 38, North Carolina 28
Suddenly, Utah’s receiving corps is significantly depleted.
The Utes confirmed Thursday that Raelon Singleton has decided to leave Kyle Whittingham‘s football program. The school cited unspecified “family reasons” for the redshirt junior wide receiver moving on from the Utes.
“We are sorry to see Raelon leave, but understand that his family comes first,” a statement from the head coach read. “We appreciate his contributions to our program over the last four years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Singleton, a native of the state of Texas, will graduate from the university in May. That would make him eligible to play immediately in 2018 at another FCS school if that’s the route he chooses to take.
The past two seasons, Singleton was the Utes’ second-leading receiver yards-wise. He had 36 receptions for 531 yards and four touchdowns this past season, and went 27-464-4 in 2016.
With Singleton’s departure and leading receiver Darren Carrington‘s expired eligibility, the Utes will have to replace 106 receptions and 1,511 yards. That twosome also combined for 10 touchdown catches; as a team, the Utes had 18 this past season.
It’s that time of year for a handful of coaching surprises.
The latest such development comes from Louisville, with Jody Demling of CardinalAuthority.com the first to report that Peter Sirmon has stepped down as the U of L’s defensive coordinator. The football program subsequently confirmed that Sirmon has left Bobby Petrino‘s coaching staff.
“I would like to thank Peter Sirmon for all his work this season at the University of Louisville,” a statement attributed to the head coach began. “I wish him and his family all the best.”
Sirmon just completed his first season with the Cardinals. In his lone season, the U of L finished 70th in scoring defense (27.4 ppg) and 62nd in total defense (388.1 ypg); in the year prior to arrival, they were 71st (27.1 pp) and 59th (387 ypg), respectively, in those categories.
Prior to the U of L, Sirmon had served as the coordinator at Mississippi State for one season in 2016.
Not surprisingly, Clemson’s quarterback room will have one less familiar face in it this season than it did last.
Using Clemson’s official Twitter account, Zerrick Cooper announced Friday that he has decided to transfer from the Tigers. In his statement, the quarterback indicated that he was moving on in order to find a better opportunity for playing time.
“This is no reflection of the Clemson family,” Cooper wrote, “but rather a direct reflection of my drive to lead, play & compete.”
Cooper was a four-star member of the Tigers’ 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the country. After redshirting as a true freshman, Cooper, along with Hunter Johnson, served as the backups to starter Kelly Bryant following the competition to replace Deshaun Watson.
Of the two, the strong-armed Cooper saw the most action as he completed 25 of his 41 attempts for 256 yards and a pair of touchdowns in seven games. Johnson, a true freshman who was a five-star 2017 signee, attempted 27 passes. However, by the end of the season, Johnson had seemingly become Bryant’s primary backup.
Both Bryant and Johnson will return in 2018. Perhaps more than anything, however, Clemson signed Trevor Lawrence, the top-rated player in the Class of 2018, as part of the first-ever early signing period last month.
Nick Saban‘s latest reshaping of his coaching will reportedly come at the expense of a Big Ten school.
Earlier Thursday, a report surfaced that Mike Locksley was being promoted by Saban to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. As Locksley served as Alabama’s wide receivers coach this past season, it left Saban in search of a new coach for that positional group.
According to FootballScoop.com, that search has ended as Penn State’s Josh Gattis is expected to take the job. Gattis will also serve as the Tide’s co-offensive coordinator.
A couple of other outlets confirmed the initial report.
Gattis had spent the past six seasons on James Franklin-led coaching staff, the first two at Vanderbilt and the last four at Penn State. In addition to receivers coach, Gattis held the title of passing-game coordinator and assistant special teams coordinator with the Nittany Lions.