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No. 16 Michigan State caps turnaround season by thumping No. 18 Washington State in Holiday Bowl

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After winning just three games in 2016, Michigan State spent last winter at home dreaming of warmer climates. Thanks to an incredible turnaround during the regular season in 2017, the No. 16 Spartans spent this winter enjoying the warmer climates of San Diego as they thumped No. 18 Washington State 42-17 in the Holiday Bowl.

And things didn’t even seem anywhere as close as that final margin would indicate.

Quarterback Brian Lewerke played a big role in the reason why the game was largely uncompetitive with a performance that could earn him a place on more than a few Heisman Dark Horse lists for 2018. The sophomore had one of the best outings of the season under center and was one point with his passing on nearly every dropback in throwing for 213 yards and three touchdowns. While he may not look like a noted dual-threat at first glance, he also paced the team with his legs for most of the night and wound up with 73 yards rushing.

Tailback L.J. Scott chipped in with 110 on the ground and scored two rushing touchdowns, while Felton Davis (118 yards, one score) and Cody White (two TD’s) helped pace the skill position players in terms of effectiveness.

Though the Cougars did get the offense clicking later in the game, they were behind the chains from the opening kickoff with sophomore Tyler Hilinski making his first career start behind center. Record-setting quarterback Luke Falk was one the sidelines in street clothes for the game but couldn’t make it back in time from a wrist injury he suffered in the Apple Cup.

Hilinski did make several nice throws down the field over the course of the game but was mostly forced to dink-and-dunk all night on his way to 272 yards, an interception and a pair of touchdowns. Several three-and-outs early put his defense in a bind however and a fumble in the third quarter that was converted into another touchdown seemed to be the back-breaker. The loss puts a damper on what was still an overall successful year for the Cougs but adds to the questions about the program going forward with a number of key players gone for 2018 and defensive coordinator Alex Grinch reportedly headed to Ohio State in January.

The same could not be said of the Spartans, which capped a seven-win turnaround this year and have plenty of momentum (and returning starters) as they return to East Lansing for the new year. While we tend to over-inflate bowl victories when it comes to the preseason outlook on some teams, the way that MSU has trended this year bodes well for them in what should be a rough and tumble Big Ten in 2018 that will likely have Mark Dantonio‘s squad right back in the thick of the title race again.

Chip Kelly and UCLA land ex-Washington QB K.J. Carta-Samuels

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K.J. Carta-Samuels may have left Washington, but he’s not leaving the Pac-12.

Carta-Samuels brother, Austyn, revealed on his own personal Twitter account that K.J. will be transferring to UCLA. “Chip Kelly, you just got yourself a QB,” the recruiting coordinator at Missouri wrote.

The younger Carta-Samuels brother subsequently told CBSSports.com that Kelly is “a huge reason why” he chose to move on to the Bruins.

In early December, Carta-Samuels announced that he would be leaving Chris Petersen‘s Washington football program.

Carta-Samuels will be joining Kelly’s squad as a graduate transfer, which means he’ll be one of the players fighting for the right to replace three-year-starting quarterback Josh Rosen. Earlier this month, Rosen did the somewhat expected and left early for the NFL draft.

A four-star member of UW’s 2014 recruiting class, Carta-Samuels was rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 24 player at any position in the state of California. Budda Baker, a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was the only signee in the Huskies’ class that year rated higher than Carta-Samuels.

Carta-Samuels played in 25 games over the past three seasons. He ended the Huskies portion of his collegiate playing career with 310 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in completing 27-of-47 passes.

Bryce Love returning to Stanford for senior season

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This is certainly a surprising, if not extremely significant development.

Given his talent level and the position he plays, it’s been long thought that Bryce Love would be leaving Stanford early and declaring for the April draft.  Instead, Love’s father confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle in a text early Tuesday morning that his son will be returning to the Cardinal for his senior season.

The Chronicle wrote that “[t]he junior tailback didn’t make his decision until the last possible minute Monday night, the deadline for entering the NFL draft.”

Despite battling through an ankle injury that lingered throughout the latter portion of the 2017 season, Love was second in the country in rushing with 2,118 yards and tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns with 19.  He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting behind winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.

With this decision, Love will very likely enter the 2018 season as the favorite to claim this year’s Heisman.

Report: Hugh Freeze visited Alabama’s football building Monday

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It wouldn’t take long to call the roll of head coaches who could get away with hiring Hugh Freeze at the moment, and Nick Saban is certainly at or near the top of that list. Based on word coming out of Tuscaloosa, a Saban-Freeze marriage could very well be on the horizon to test that theory.

According to the Tuscaloosa News, the disgraced former Ole Miss head coach was a visitor at Alabama’s football building on Monday. While the News didn’t detail the nature of the visit, FootballScoop.com writes that “Freeze was in the building today at Alabama to discuss the open offensive coordinator job.” Another national writer, however, downplayed the possibility of Freeze joining Saban’s staff.

Per the News, Saban has always held a healthy respect for Freeze given how much success, relatively speaking, the Rebels’ offense had going up against the Crimson Tide’s defense.

Saban is searching for a fourth offensive coordinator in less than 14 months after Brian Daboll left the team Sunday after one season to take the same job with the Buffalo Bills. Given Freeze’s credentials, he’d certainly warrant serious consideration to fill the opening; based on his exit from Oxford, he could be a tough sell in a lot of places.

Freeze “resigned” from Ole Miss after it was discovered he was using a school-issued cell phone to hook up with escort services on multiple occasions. Additionally, there were the Rebels’ NCAA issues while Freeze was in charge that left the coach with a team-game suspension to serve; that suspension would not have to be served if Freeze is a coordinator or position coach.

It was reported earlier this month that Les Miles was involved in Arizona’s search for a head coach and had an interest in bringing Freeze along as his coordinator if he landed the job. Not long after, after criticism came pouring in over the potential move, the earlier reports were walked back because of the stigma that still follows Freeze.

Ex-Nebraska WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr. reportedly lands at Arizona

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It appears Keyshawn Johnson Jr. will continue his collegiate playing career a little bit further west than where it began.

On the same day that Kevin Sumlin was hired as the head coach at Arizona, Nate Clouse of Rivals.com reported that Johnson will be enrolling at UA this week and play for the Wildcats. The son of former USC great Keyshawn Johnson will be eligible to play immediately for Sumlin in 2018.

In late June of last year, Johnson was cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.  Not long after, the wide receiver decided to take a leave of absence, with his famous father stating that his son needed some time to “mature” and would not play for the Cornhuskers in 2017.

At the time, the plan was for the junior Johnson to return to Lincoln and play his college football for Mike Riley.  With his father’s college offensive coordinator dismissed at the end of the regular season, Johnson took to Twitter in mid-December to announce that he wouldn’t be returning to the Cornhuskers.

Johnson was a four-star member of the Cornhuskers’ 2017 recruiting class who was an early enrollee and participated in spring practice, but never played a down for NU. Before signing with Nebraska, he held offers from, among others, Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Ohio State and USC.