WHO: No. 23 Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Louisville (8-4)
WHAT: The 73rd TaxSlayer Bowl
WHEN: Sat. Dec. 30th at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida
THE SKINNY: This has been an up-and-down season for both the Cardinals and Bulldogs so it’s fitting that the two should meet in what was formerly the Gator Bowl for a shot at capping 2017 off with a ninth win and a little momentum heading into the offseason.
If you’re looking for a reason to tune in, look no further than Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, who likely will be playing his final game for the team before leaving to go to the NFL but has one last chance to leave a lasting impression for fans, scouts and opponents. The electric dual-threat has been as good if not better this year than he was when he was named the most outstanding player in the sport and you can bet that he is looking to add significantly to his already eye-popping numbers (4,932 total yards and a whopping 42 touchdowns) in this game as a potential swan song to his Louisville career.
MSU, on the other hand, heads to sunny Florida in a much different position. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald broke his ankle in the Egg Bowl to end the year and head coach Dan Mullen (along with several assistants) departed for Florida not long after the regular season ended. While there is plenty of talent on the roster — especially on defense with defensive linemen like Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons — it will be interesting to see how a group with an interim defensive coordinator tries to slow down one of the most dangerous players in the country. Add in that this will be the first start for freshman signal-caller Keytaon Thompson and it’s safe to say that MSU is a team in that finds itself in quite a transition during the lead up to the game.
Still, there are enough athletes on both sides to make this one a potentially fun finish to close out 2017 and one of the better matchups of bowl season outside the New Year’s Six. The Cardinals have a pretty clear-cut edge coming into the TaxSlayer Bowl but given what a wildcard the Bulldogs are at the moment, they could certainly make things interesting until Jackson really gets going with his arm and his legs.
THE PICK: Louisville 34, Mississippi State 24
Today in ‘You’re getting old,’ part 9,374: Ron Dayne’s kid will soon play college football.
While it seems like just yesterday that the ‘Great Dayne’ was running wild at Wisconsin and winning the 1999 Heisman Trophy, the soon-to-be 40-year-old will be back in college football in a different light: as a dad. That’s because his son, Javian Dayne, just committed to Boston College as part of the class of 2018.
The elder Dayne amassed 7,125 yards on the ground over four seasons at Wisconsin, a mark that is more than any other player in college football history but good for second on the NCAA all-time list behind San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey due to the lack of counting bowl stats back in the day. The younger Dayne doesn’t have quite the same size and stats as his dad but wasn’t too shabby at Waunakee (Wis.) High in running for 4,269 yards and 56 touchdowns the past three years.
“I absolutely hated the process,” Javian told the Wisconsin State Journal of his recruitment. “I was one of those people who wanted to get it over with. I didn’t like the process at all. … We did a lot of traveling around.”
The six-foot, 200 pound recruit is listed as a two-star by 247Sports and was recruited heavily by the Eagles since November. He’ll have a tough time becoming the starter with A.J. Dillon coming off a 1,500 yard season as a freshman but could be in the mix with several others to see some carries early on with primary backup Jon Hilliman transferring to Rutgers.
Either way, the first time the cameras find Ron Dayne on the sidelines at a Boston College game watching his son will be yet another reminder that we’re all getting very, very old.
Alex Grinch isn’t the only member of Mike Leach’s staff who is ticketed out of Pullman this offseason.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Oregon had poached Washington State assistant Jim Mastro to be the Ducks’ new running backs coach and run game coordinator.
Mastro has been with the Cougars since joining Leach’s initial staff at Wazzu back in 2012 and has quite a bit of experience out west, including 11 seasons at Nevada and a year at UCLA. He replaces Donte Pimpleton, who followed former Oregon coach Willie Taggart to Florida State several weeks ago.
Interestingly, this is the third straight offseason that the Ducks have poached an assistant from their Pac-12 North rivals. Quarterbacks coach David Yost left for Eugene back in 2015 while Taggart hired defensive line coach Joe Salave’a last year. Mastro should have plenty to work with upon arrival with senior Tony Brooks-James and youngster Darrian Felix likely leading the way on the ground.
Kevin Sumlin is still sorting out his new staff at Arizona but reportedly has his special teams coordinator locked up and it’s a familiar face from his previous stop in College Station.
While Texas A&M’s former special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was hired for the same position at Alabama, Sumlin has hired his No. 2 in Jeremy Springer to be the Wildcats’ new special teams coordinator, a source told Sports Illustrated this week. The trio worked together for three years with the Aggies as Springer assisted Banks in the crucial third phase of the game.
Springer was originally ticketed to join another former Sumlin assistant in David Beaty as a staffer at Kansas but instead will head west to the desert. His most recent formal title was quality control special teams/tight ends assistant at Texas A&M but he’ll be an on-field coach in Tucson.
Springer played linebacker for UTEP and is still pretty fresh-faced in the coaching profession having graduated from the school in 2011.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the national championship game which means that Jeremy Pruitt has been in Knoxville as the new Tennessee head coach for some time now leading the program. Despite that fact, there’s still a visible reminder every day when he drives into work of the previous regime that was in charge of the Vols.
That’s because there’s a giant 35-by-30-foot picture of former head coach Butch Jones still up on the outside of Neyland Stadium… over two months after he was fired by Tennessee. According to the Times Free Press, the picture could even be up past signing day in February as the rather slow change is made for an item that isn’t as easy for the school to alter as the media guide is.
“That’s not an easy process,” athletic director Phillip Fulmer told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR. “There’s mechanical things involved to get that done. It’s not just, ‘Let’s take down a picture off the wall or a graphic.’ We’re working through that.
“It is important to us, because it is important to reflect what we’re doing. It’ll be done in due time. I’ve heard the same thing from the chancellor. She wants me to speed it up, too. We will. We’ll get there.”
Funny enough, the giant picture of Jones (flanked by UT legends Reggie White and Robert Neyland) replaced an image of Fulmer from when the team won the BCS title 20 years ago. Something says they might revert back to that look with their now-AD until Pruitt can establish himself with the program over the next few years to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.
As the Times Free Press notes, it took Florida State just a week to scrub Jimbo Fisher‘s likeness from Doak Campbell Stadium but it might be three months before the Vols can do the same with their coaching change. It may not delight the fan base to see Jones some more but this is clearly one area on Rocky Top that is decidedly not moving at SEC-speed at the moment.