WHO: SMU (7-5) vs. Louisiana Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The inaugural DXL Frisco Bowl
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas
THE SKINNY: Two teams that are a combined one game above .500, one of whom has already lost its coaching staff, playing in a bowl game that did not exist a year ago in a nondescript suburb whose greatest tourist destination is a mall. In other words, the DXL Frisco Bowl is the perfect 2017 bowl game.
You know about SMU by now. Head coach Chad Morris left for Arkansas and interim head coach Jeff Traylor also left for Arkansas, which means new head coach Sonny Dykes will coach the Mustangs a week and a half after taking the job. This means that graduate assistant G.J. Kinne will call plays, with heavy game-planning input from quarterback Ben Hicks.
SMU should be fine on offense; they ranked 16th nationally in yards per play and eighth in scoring at 40.2 points per game. The problem, though, is that SMU still has its same defense. The Ponies ranked 113th in scoring defense at 35.5 points per game. SMU hasn’t held an opponent under 30 points since Oct. 21 and gave up 44.5 points a game over the course of a 1-3 November that would have seen the club go 0-4 if not for a favorable ruling that preserved a 41-38 win over Tulane on the season’s final Saturday.
Louisiana Tech, meanwhile, is led by Dykes’s replacement Skip Holtz. The Bulldogs ended a streak of three consecutive 9-win seasons and two straight Conference USA West Division championships as its offense fell from second to 62nd in scoring. Louisiana Tech’s defense did climb from 97th to 66th in scoring, but the net change saw an average score go from 44-34 in Louisiana Tech’s favor in 2016 to a 29-27 score this fall. The Bulldogs’ 6-6 record included a 1-6 mark against bowl-bound teams, with the lone win coming by a 23-22 decision over 6-6 Western Kentucky back on Sept. 16.
THE PICK: SMU 38, Louisiana Tech 34
Nearly four months after ostensibly being fired as athletic director, John Currie has an official severance agreement with his former employer.
Tennessee announced Thursday evening that “it has completed an amicable resolution parting ways with former… Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics John Currie.” Currie had been earning $75,000 a month during a paid suspension; the university stated in its release that Currie will be paid a sum total of $2,220,454 (and 60 cents, for accounting purposes) no later than April 1 of this year.
Additionally, the release noted that Currie “will be paid his salary through March 22, 2018.”
In the midst of a football coaching search fiasco that included a Mike Leach hire that wasn’t, Currie was ousted as the AD at UT on Dec. 1 of last year and replaced by former Vols head football coach Phillip Fulmer. Between then and today’s announcement, Currie had been technically employed but suspended with pay by the university.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Currie had been hired as an executive-in-residence at Robert Morris University.
That certainly didn’t last long.
Tuesday, after the first day of spring practice, Lane Kiffin revealed that Chris Robison had been indefinitely suspended from the Florida Atlantic football program for unspecified violations of team rules; one report had the suspension connected to skipping a mandatory tutoring session. At the time, the second-year head coach indicated that the suspension was day-to-day and could be lifted at any time.
As it turns out, Thursday was that time as the quarterback returned to the practice field with the rest of his FAU teammates.
“He came in [Wednesday] and actually thanked me for it,” Kiffin said according to the Sun-Sentinel. “He said it really kind of embarrassed him nationally and humbled him that things could kind of be taken away. It was good to see.”
A four-star member of Oklahoma’s 2017 recruiting class, Robison was arrested in April of that year for public intoxication; four months later, OU announced that Robison had been dismissed from the football program. In August of last year, Robison announced his decision to transfer to FAU and ended up taking a redshirt for the 2017 season.
Robison and De’Andre Johnson are expected to compete for the starting job vacated by Jason Driskel, who announced earlier this offseason that he was retiring from the sport. Johnson missed most of the 2017 season after blood clots were discovered in one of his arms.
In the end, it appears to be much ado about (mostly) nothing.
Tuesday, after the reigning national champions had put the finishing touches on its first practice of the spring, Nick Saban confirmed that quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had suffered an unspecified injury to the thumb on his left (throwing) hand. It was expected that the quarterback would travel to Birmingham for further evaluation of the injury.
Wednesday, it was reported that the injury was believed to be just a sprain and that Tagovailoa could return to practice soon. That report proved prophetic as Tagovailoa was indeed back at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis.
The quarterback was not doing the normal drills with his teammates but was off to the side working with head athletic trainer Jeff Allen. It looked like they were testing Tagovailoa’s ability to grip the football since the injury was suffered on his throwing hand. He replicated a few play-action roll outs with the ball in his left hand. At one point, he rolled over toward where Jalen Hurts was standing and they high fived.
Until Tagovailoa is fully recovered, Jalen Hurts will take the majority of the reps as the Crimson Tide continues its march through their 15 spring practice sessions.
The rising true junior Hurts, who has started every game but one the past two seasons, and the rising true sophomore Tagovailoa, the national championship game hero who replaced Hurts at halftime of the overtime win, are entrenched in a competition for the starting job that, barring a post-spring transfer, is expected to extend into summer camp. That said, most observers outside of the UA football program fully expect Tagovailoa, because of his proficiency in the passing game relative to Hurts, to earn the job at some point before the Tide opens the defense of their title against Louisville in Orlando Sept. 1.
Greene is turning orange. Well, Jalen Greene is at least.
The former USC wide receiver who announced he would pursue a graduate transfer earlier this month announced on Twitter that he would be heading East to play at Illinois in 2018. He will be immediately eligible to play for the Illini.
Greene was originally recruited by the Trojans as a dual-threat quarterback but eventually made the move to receiver. He caught eight passes for 98 yards at USC last season as a partial starter and added another eight receptions for 116 yards the year prior.
Illinois has already begun spring practice and has been trying several new players at wide receiver in the process to find a good complement to Mike Dudek on the outside. It seems Greene could find himself in the mix to be one of those guys when he arrives in Champaign.