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CFT Previews: The Rose Bowl Game


WHO: No. 5 Penn State (11-2) vs. No. 9 USC (9-3)
WHAT: The 103rd Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
WHEN: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
THE SKINNY: The Granddaddy of Them All is not a College Football Playoff Semifinal this season but it has that that sort of feel with a high caliber matchup between two of the hottest teams in the country that each has a pretty good case to be in the final four.

The Nittany Lions head West as Big Ten champions after a magical run that included beating Ohio State in a thriller and Wisconsin in the conference title game thanks to a remarkable comeback. The team has not skipped much of a beat defensively from last year behind defensive end Garrett Sickels (12.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks) and safety Marcus Allen (101 tackles) but it’s the offense that has really helped spark the team’s run to the roses.

Quarterback Trace McSorley has really impressed with 25 touchdown passes against just five interceptions on the year and forms a potent backfield tandem with tailback Saquon Barkley, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Head coach James Franklin has done a masterful job of bringing this team together to regroup from some painful early losses to finish the season playing as well as anybody but there’s still one task left on the table for Penn State to accomplish.

That would involve beating USC, who is no stranger to starting off the year in ugly fashion. The Trojans made it through the first month of the season with a 1-3 record and plenty of talk that the school needed to fire recently named head coach Clay Helton. Instead the team lived up to their motto and fought on, running off eight straight wins that included a throttling of playoff participant Washington up in Seattle.

A change at quarterback has proven to be the spark that set the team off and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold is a key cog to USC’s recent success, looking less like a young signal-caller and more like some of the big time QB’s who have come through the program in recent years. He’s able to lean on an experienced offensive line and has a deep stable of playmakers to distribute the ball to, including wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back Ronald Jones II. Defensively, Thorpe Award winner and superstar return man Adoree’ Jackson headlines a talented group of players that can throw just about every look out there that you can imagine.

All that makes for one of the most compelling games of the postseason as the two teams return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since meeting back in 2009 (a 35-24 USC win). Each program has been through the ringer of NCAA sanctions and extensive coaching turnover since that point and will be looking to show the rest of the country that they are back among the college football elite with a win. Talent favors the Trojans in this one but the Nittany Lions haven’t let that stop them this year and won’t go without a fight to begin 2017 in what should be a fantastic game.

THE PICK: USC 34, Penn State 27

Florida State planning new facility to catch up with Clemson

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Florida State completed a major facility overhaul not even three years ago. But the thing about arms races is that when someone pulls ahead of you it means you are behind.

And Clemson officially pulled ahead earlier this year with the opening of its glistening, slide-equipped new home.

As such, Jimbo Fisher told reporters Friday that Florida State now has plans to construct its own standalone facility, going as far as meeting with an architect.

“We need room. We need meeting space, player development areas. You’ve got to have those areas and also to show off your history. That’s what Florida State is known for, being a great football program,” Fisher told ESPN. “You can never stand still. If you’re not evolving and moving, people are going to bypass you. You’ve got to keep going. The great programs never settle. We’re always looking for that edge. It’s going to help recruiting. It’s going to help player development. We get a lot of guys that are three-and-out, so we’ve got to have space for them to get them developed as quickly as we can so we can get production out of them.”

While saying that it’s a “competitive” race and not an arms race, Fisher also tried to sell that the plans for the ‘Noles’ new home were unrelated to Clemson’s new facility.

“I don’t care what they’ve got,” Fisher said. “I’m worried about what we’ve got. If I don’t think it’s going to make a difference in our program for these kids to develop as people, students and players, I won’t ask. I didn’t grow up with a lot. I was taught if you need it, do what you’ve got to do to be successful but don’t waste. I’m not going to do that. But there’s things you’ve got to have to be successful and that’s the next step, in my opinion.”

Former Michigan TE Jake Butt says college players should be able to cash in on likenesses

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For the record, Jake Butt shouldn’t “be paid” in the strictest sense of the term — to receive a paycheck for services rendered. Rather, the former Michigan tight end believes players should be able to profit from their statuses as college athletes when the NCAA, its conferences and member schools are already doing the same.

(Having an extremely marketable last name probably contributed to the forming of this opinion.)

“Something needs to change,” Butt told at Michigan’s pro day. “I don’t want a check from the NCAA. I don’t know if that’s something that’s likely. But the big thing is they say you can’t use your name to benefit. I can’t go into my favorite breakfast spot, Benny’s, I can’t go in there and get a free breakfast because I’m only getting that because of my name.

“That’s not to say I can’t make friends with the owner because of the person I am. I’m a good guy, a really good guy — sociable guy, made a lot of friends. I can’t accept anything free for that. They said I can’t go down the street, the example one of them gave us is you can’t go to [get] tires and negotiate your price from $600 to $500 because that’s only because of your name. But Joe Schmo can go down the street and he can negotiate his price. It’s kind of ridiculous to me.”

Butt was a victim of the cruelest twist in circumstances possible for a college athlete — a season-ending injury at the end of his final season. A senior, Butt was one of the top tight ends on the draft board before suffering a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ Orange Bowl loss to Florida State. The Mackey Award winner as the nation’s top tight end will be drafted next month, but the damage to his bank account resulting from the injuries is significant. Being able to profit from his own name and image would have served as insurance against the loss of value he suffered due to the injury.

“I should be the example of why college athletes should be getting paid in college or why I can’t use my name to benefit off my likeness in college,” Butt said.

“Why can I see ‘I Like Jake Butt and I Cannot Lie,’ I see those shirts and I’m living paycheck-to-paycheck in college. Who knows? Heaven forbid something happens in the NFL, can I really benefit off of it when it was at the most? No, I can’t.”

Baylor strength coach apparently no longer with the program

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It seems every bit of news related to Baylor football nowadays has to do with the school’s on-going sexual assault scandal but it appears there is one bit of information coming out of the program that doesn’t have something to do with that.

A school spokesperson told ESPN on Friday that football strength coach Kaz Kazadi has been “reassigned to a role outside the athletic performance staff.” A report from the local ESPN Radio affiliate in Waco indicates that the move will eventually have the coach leaving the school altogether.

Kazadi spent nearly a decade with the Bears and played a big role in the team’s on-field turnaround under the former coaching staff. Several former players took to Twitter on Friday to express their shock over the loss of one of the cornerstones of the team in recent years.

After the hire of Matt Rhule this offseason, it isn’t too surprising to see some turnover among those staff members connected to the previous regime. Baylor’s new head coach brought most of his strength staff with him from Temple so it was probably only a matter of time before Kazadi moved on, though the timing of the quasi-announcement (the Bears started spring football last weekend) is somewhat interesting.

Either way, it appears Baylor will have a new direction in the weight room going forward.

Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh has ditched his Dockers for another

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Peanut butter and jelly. Milk and cookies. Batman and Robin. Maize and blue. Jim Harbaugh and khakis.

All are iconic combinations, but it appears the latter is undergoing a few changes right now.

The Michigan head coach’s affinity for a pair of khakis has been so strong over the years that it’s become almost comical how much he likes the style of pant. Heck, he even got a commercial out of it a few years ago when he specifically started getting outfitted with Dockers brand khakis.

Despite being a paid endorser though, it appears that Harbaugh has dropped the famous Levi’s brand version of khakis to attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind in another pair of pants.

Not only is the switch from Dockers to Lululemon result in a lot more comfort for the Wolverines coach, it’s probably a bit more of a hit to the ol’ wallet than dropping by Walmart for a pair of khakis off the shelf. It probably doesn’t make a huge difference for Harbaugh though given that he’s the highest paid coach in the country but it might result in a few more trips to the mall.

Either way, what it does mean is that now we demand a new commercial featuring Harbaugh and khakis. After all, if you’re upping the clothing game, you’ve got to up the ad game as well.