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No. 10 USC fights off No. 12 Stanford to capture first Pac-12 title since 2008

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If this is how championship week is going to start, we could be in for a doozy of a finish on Saturday to close out 2017.

No. 10 USC used a fourth quarter goal line stand and a few key plays from their star quarterback to hold off a pesky No. 12 Stanford squad for the second time this year and capture the conference title 31-28 in the Pac-12 Football Championship Game on Friday night.

The Trojans looked as though they were going to give away another game in the second half but showed why they were a near consensus pick in the preseason to win the league by showing a bit of championship level grit when it mattered most. On their heels following a shanked punt midway through the fourth quarter, the USC defense came up big with a fourth and goal stop from the one yard line when speedy linebacker Uchenna Nwosu tackled Cardinal back Cameron Scarlett just inches outside the goal line to prevent the go-ahead score from the North Division representatives.

That crucial stop then turned into a massive 14 point swing as golden boy Sam Darnold game up big on the ensuing possession, leading a 99-yard touchdown drive that all but locked up the title. The quarterback may not have had the 2017 many predicted he would have after that historic run last year (and the thrilling Rose Bowl victory back in January) but his 325 yards and two touchdowns were the result of one of his best games all year. Most of that yardage and a huge number of the big plays USC had at Levi’s Stadium came courtesy of the signal-caller hooking up with wideout Michael Pittman (146 yards, one touchdown) who was running free in the secondary on nearly every other play.

Not to be left out, Ronald Jones proved why he is one of the best running backs in the country and likely to return to the stadium on Sunday’s by rushing for 132 yards and a pair of scores against one of the Pac-12’s best defensive units.

That all helped spoil the previously perfect 3-0 record that the Cardinal had in the Pac-12 Championship Game coming into the night. Running back Bryce Love ran for 125 yards and a touchdown but was clearly still bothered by his banged up ankle injury, limping off late in the game and simply not having that extra gear we’re used to seeing. Even so, the likely Heisman finalist still put up another 52 yard run and really helped the offense get going starting in the second quarter.

With Love hobbled, QB K.J. Costello stepped up with his arm and finished with 192 yards and a pair of incredible on-the-money touchdown throws to Kaden Smith.

It wasn’t enough in the end however as the Trojans finished the season as many expected them to: as Pac-12 champions. That marked the first time the powerhouse team had won the league since 2008, when the trophy said Pac-10 on it and Pete Carroll was the head coach doing the heavy lifting on the sideline.

Whether all that will ultimately be enough for USC to sneak into the College Football Playoff with a historic move into the top four on Sunday remains to be seen but, on Friday night at least, all the postseason talk didn’t mean much for a program that has been through a lot and can once again lay claim to being the best in the West.

Alabama announces hiring of UTSA defensive coordinator

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In early January, new NCAA legislation will officially allow FBS football programs to add a 10th on-field assistant to their coaching staffs.  Friday, Alabama, not surprisingly, became the first Power Five program to officially dip into that particular coaching pool.

The Crimson Tide confirmed in a press release that Pete Golding has been added to Nick Saban‘s staff as an ambiguous defensive assistant.  Golding will not be permitted to assume an on-field role until Jan. 9, the day the 10th assistant rule officially goes into effect.

The 2017 College Football Playoff championship game is scheduled to be played Jan. 8 of next year, for what it’s worth.

“We are pleased to have Pete and his family join our staff at Alabama,” Saban said in a statement. “Pete is an exciting young coach, who has an outstanding reputation as both a teacher and recruiter. He will be a great fit in our organization with his knowledge of the game and his ability to relate to student-athletes. We are thrilled to welcome Pete and his family to Alabama.”

Golding, who will be permitted to work with his new program in an off-field capacity for now, has spent the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach at UT-San Antonio.  Prior to that, Golding spent two seasons as the safeties coach at Southern Miss, his first job at the FBS level.

Saban will still need to fill the hole created by defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt‘s hiring as the head coach at Tennessee.  Pruitt will remain at Alabama through its playoff run, however long it lasts.

As accuser blasts DA’s office, protective order against Oklahoma RB Rodney Anderson dismissed

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Thursday, Cleveland County (Okla.) District Attorney Greg Mashburn announced in a press conference that his office would not pursue charges related to allegations of rape made against Oklahoma running back Rodney Anderson. A day later, there were a pair of developments in connection to the situation.

In a statement released Friday, the accuser who claimed Anderson raped her in mid-November released a blistering statement blasting the prosecutors, stating that her faith in the justice system has been diminished by the actions of the district attorney’s office. Specifically, she decried, in part, “inaccurate statements” from Mashburn at the Thursday press conference and hopes that his office’s “unorthodox, erroneous and egregious release of detailed information does not affect and/or deter future victims from coming forward.”

My choice to stay silent to the media was an intentional decision. I held full faith that the Oklahoma criminal justice system would achieve due process with a thorough investigation. Yesterday’s press conference, held by the Cleveland County District Attorney’s office, diminished my faith in our local judicial system. I was speechless when I heard inaccurate statements, a disregard for addressing my inability to give consent, and a projected perceived bias. I was led to believe that the case details provided to the media would be a vague overview of the investigative process. I truly hope their unorthodox, erroneous and egregious release of detailed information does not affect and/or deter future victims from coming forward.

In the press conference, the prosecutor noted several text messages between the accuser and Anderson after the alleged assault that were described as friendly in nature. Anderson’s attorney claimed that the accuser only went to the authorities with her claims after Anderson had rejected several of her advances in the weeks following the alleged assault.

Earlier this month, the 23-year-old woman filed for an emergency order of protection against Anderson; additional details subsequently emerged, with the woman describing the player in a written statement to the court as the “alleged rapist” and herself as the “victim of rape.” A hearing on the protective order had been scheduled for Dec. 18.

That hearing three days from today has since been canceled. From the accuser’s statement:

Despite my adamant fight for justice, I have chosen to dismiss my Victim Protective Order upon receiving military orders two days ago to begin training. I look forward to starting this next chapter of my life as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.

The woman, who signed her statement “Courtney J. Thornton, OU Class of 2017,” closed the missive with the following paragraph:

In the future, I ask you to consider all sides of every story before resorting to absolutes. Coming forward was one of the most difficult decisions of my life, but I never wanted to regret not reporting what happened that night. In the humble words of Eleanor Roosevelt, ‘What you don’t do can be a destructive force.’

Ohio State assistant coach Larry Johnson takes to Twitter to deny retirement rumors

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The addition of an early signing period in college football has altered the sport in many different ways this year, from super quick coaching searches to an ever changing recruiting calendar and process. While you can debate the merits of the new Dec. 20th date all you want, there’s no denying that the entire process has been accelerated much more so than in past seasons.

That is also very true when it comes to ‘crootin rumors.

Apparently there have been a few such rumors floating around that veteran Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson was set to retire at some point in the not too distant future (i.e. after the season). The coach is one of the best in the business and highly regarded for his recruiting abilities so naturally he made things very clear on Twitter Friday morning that he will be in Columbus and wanted to set the record straight that he would not be leaving the staff.

You could probably chalk up the rumors and grumblings to a bit of negative recruiting from some rivals given that the coach is in his mid-sixties but it’s great news for the Buckeyes that he will indeed be the team’s line coach for the forseeable future.

Missouri hires former Florida coach Brad Davis as Tigers new offensive line coach

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Missouri has their new offensive line coach and they didn’t even have to look outside their own division to find one.

The Tigers announced on Friday that they had hired Brad Davis to be the team’s new offensive line coach after he spent the past season at SEC East rival Florida coaching the same position group

“I’m very pleased to have Brad and his family join our program,” head coach Barry Odom said in a statement.  “He’s a tremendous teacher and mentor, and he’s been lights out on the recruiting trail with his approach to building true relationships with kids.  Brad has experience in the SEC and he has worked hard to earn a great amount of respect among his peers.  I’m excited to have him with us, and I know he is going to do a great job helping us move forward offensively and continue building,”

Davis was not retained by new Gators coach Dan Mullen but the former Oklahoma offensive lineman has experience from prior stops at East Carolina and North Carolina over the years. He replaces Glen Elarbee, who left as Missouri’s offensive line coach to follow Josh Heupel to UCF.