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SEC West, Pac-12 North divisions on the line after Thanksgiving

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After a relatively lackluster weekend of college football, a mix of rivalry games and division races crossing the finish line will be among the many highlights this week. The most notable of those races will be the SEC West and the Pac-12 North, as they will play a role in the greater College Football Playoff picture to various degrees. Throw in the possible Big 12 championship game scenarios and we have some good stuff to look forward to this week.

The ACC and Big Ten championship games are already locked in. Clemson will face Miami and the ACC hopes each will avoid an upset this weekend in order to keep this a potential matchup of top four teams at worst. Wisconsin and Ohio State are set to square off in Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship, and that game also figures to play a key role in the College Football Playoff picture.

USC clinched the Pac-12 South and now gets a bye week to prepare for the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans will face either Stanford or Washington State. That opponent will be determined by the Apple Cup between Washington State and Washington. If the Cougars win, they will play USC in the Pac-12 championship game. If Washington State loses to Washington, then it will be Bryce Love and Stanford going against Sam Darnold and the Trojans.

The Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn will determine the SEC West Division champion, with the winner advancing to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game to face East Division champion Georgia.

The Big 12 championship game is also still to be determined. Oklahoma will play either TCU or Iowa State, although it is most likely to be the Horned Frogs who will face the Sooners. Iowa State would need a win and TCU to lose to Baylor in addition to a combination of two losses from Texas, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. If TCU beats Baylor, TCU will be in.

The Group of Five puzzle still has a few pieces to figure out as well. Fresno State and Boise State must still learn where their Mountain West Conference championship game will be played. Memphis will play the winner of this week’s UCF vs. USF game, with the location to be determined. Conference USA has FAU vs. North Texas ready to go, but the MAC will have both divisions settled this week. Akron will clinch the East with a win on Tuesday, otherwise, the door will be open for Ohio to grab the division on Friday with a win. Toledo will clinch the West with a win or an NIU loss, while NIU can clinch the division with a win and a Toledo loss.

While it does not play a conference championship game this season, the Sun Belt Conference crown is also up for grabs. Troy, Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Appalachian State are all 5-1 in conference play going into this week, leaving the door open for an interesting conference championship situation. Troy will play at Arkansas State, so the winner of that game will finish in no worse than a tie for first place. Georgia State has two games remaining, including this week’s game against Appalachian State. Again, the winner here will be in a tie for first place. Georgia State and Arkansas State do not play this season, so the two could finish with a true split conference championship. Troy and Appalachian State also do not play, presenting another potential scenario for a true split conference championship. But if Troy and Georgia State end the season with the same conference record, then Troy would own the head-to-head tiebreaker for bragging rights. Let’s just get through this week first and then re-evaluate the Sun Belt championship picture with one week of games still to play.

Got all that?

Willie Taggart making single-digit numbers at Florida State up for grabs in spring practice

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Spring practice for a new head coach brings tons of changes for a team as they get used to a new way of doing things. One of the bigger culture changes might be the transition Florida State is undergoing from Jimbo Fisher to Willie Taggart.

While rap music at practice and a quick tempo are noticeable, so too are the numbers players are wearing at practice. It seems there’s a reason behind that change as Taggart is making players earn single-digit numbers instead of being able to carry them over from last season.

“I know when I was growing up the single digits went to the dudes. That’s kind of how we want it,” the new head coach said, according to the Associated Press. “Not everyone can be a single digit. Getting it is being one of the best.”

Taggart, who was No. 1 when he played back in the day at Western Kentucky, is not playing favorites at all when it comes to stripping the single-digits from jerseys. According to the AP report, former five-star and current star running back Cam Akers was wearing No. 23 instead of the No. 4 he wore in 2017.

Credit to the sophomore as he said that he liked the tactic but that kind of thinking might change by the end of spring practice if he doesn’t get his number back.

Dan Mullen is running gassers with the Gators when Florida players miss class

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If you’ve been a part of a football team at any level, chances are high that you are intimately familiar with running a gasser. Depending on how many you were forced to run, you might even have some traumatic memories of running down to the line and back.

New Florida head coach Dan Mullen is trying to instill a new culture in Gainesville with his first spring practice and one of the ways he’s trying to do that is establishing penalties for Gators players missing class. In a unique twist though, the coach isn’t just blowing the whistle and watching guys run up and down the field —  he’s joining them.

“Yeah, they weren’t real happy,” Mullen told 247Sports’ GatorBait site. “That was pretty simple, it’s about going to class. I don’t control that, they control that. If you’re late for class, everybody that’s late for class we run a gasser for. So if they don’t want to run gassers, then just show up on time for class and we don’t run gassers. We’ll get extra work in.

“I’m part of the team, so I should run the gassers too… Hey, if we make mistakes, we’re all going to pay the price. Whether it’s discipline issues, academic issues, football issues, training issues, we all pay the price. So I’m going to pay the price just like them.”

Not many head coaches would take the same path as Mullen but kudos to putting his hand in the dirt and running with his team. Something says a few of his players who struggled to get up and down the field were not to thrilled even if they had their head coach running alongside them though.

UNLV completes coaching staff with three new additions

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Wednesday, Tony Sanchez began the day with three holes on his UNLV coaching staff. By the close of business that day, they had all been filled.

UNLV has confirmed that Eric Brown, Steve Irvin and Garin Justice have officially been hired for on-field roles on Sanchez’s staff. Brown will serve as outside linebackers coach, Irvin as cornerbacks coach and Justice offensive line coach.

Justice, who comes to the Mountain West Conference program after spending the past two seasons at Florida Atlantic, will also carry the title of running-game coordinator. That stint at FAU was Justice’s first on-field job at the FBS level.

“We are fortunate to have brought in a very accomplished offensive line coach,” said Sanchez in prepared quotes distributed by the school. “Garin Justice is one of the top up-and-coming assistants in the country right now and did a great job building an elite offensive line at FAU.”

Brown spent the past five seasons in the same role at Idaho, while Irvin was the defensive coordinator at FCS San Diego the past five seasons.

“Steve was one of the up-and-coming young coordinators in the country,” Sanchez said. “He did a phenomenal job at USD, including helping his team get a big win over NAU in the first round of the playoffs last year. He has a lot of experience with cornerbacks, has recruited Texas before and is a UNLV and Eldorado alumnus, which are all plusses. …

“We are excited to bring in Eric Brown as our 10th assistant. He is a coach’s son with a lot of experience and energy that will help us improve on the defensive side of the ball.”

Brown is the son of the late longtime Fresno State assistant and coordinator Dan Brown.

After transferring from USC last year, E.J. Price tweets he’s leaving Kentucky too

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No stranger to transfer, E.J. Price is embarking on a search for a new college home — again.  Whether football is involved, however, seemingly remains to be seen.

On his personal Twitter account Thursday morning, Price announced that he is “stepping away” from the Kentucky football program.  In the tweet, the offensive lineman stressed, in all-caps, that “I WAS NOT KICKED OFF I AM LEAVING.”

In a subsequent tweet. he stated it was “time for me to overcome football.”

Earlier this month, head coach Mark Stoops mentioned “some inconsistencies with [Price] that he needs to iron out.” In another tweet, the lineman stated the following:

Price was a four-star member of USC’s 2016 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country.  He transferred from USC to Kentucky in July of last year.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Price was forced to sit out the 2017 season.