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Mississippi State picks off Lamar Jackson four times, gets past Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

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It was far from Lamar Jackson‘s finest performance, and the sour swan song played a significant role in the talented quarterback (likely) finishing his time with the Cardinals on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

In what’s widely expected to be his final season at the collegiate level, Jackson accounted for three touchdowns but that wasn’t enough to overcome his turnovers as the U of L (8-5) dropped a 31-27 decision to No. 23 Mississippi State (9-4) in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.  The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner will (likely) finish his career 1-2 in bowl games and the same 1-2 versus the SEC, with his lone win coming as a true freshman when he guided the U of L to a Music City Bowl win over Texas A&M.  They also fell to LSU in last year’s Citrus Bowl.

Jackson came into the game having not thrown an interception since a late-October loss to Wake Forest; he threw a career-high four in this one, including one deep in his own territory that led to a Keytaon Thompson rushing touchdown, the freshman quarterback’s second of the game, that knotted the score at 24-all with 13:25 left in the fourth quarter.  A U of L field goal six minutes later gave the Cardinals the lead back at 27-24; Thompson’s third rushing score with 3:39 remaining in the game proved to be the game-winner.

Jackson’s fourth pick of the game, with 2:31 left and the U of L trailing 31-27, helped seal the loss for the Cardinals.  MSU’s Mark McLaurin, incidentally, intercepted three of those passes and was named as the Player of the Game.

The U of L had a chance for a Hail Mary just beyond midfield to try to win the game in the last seconds, but Jackson’s pass was batted out of bounds as the clock ran out.

Thompson, in his first collegiate start, proved to be a difference maker for the Bulldogs, rushing for a team-high 148 yards on 27 carries to go along with the three scores.  He was quietly efficient in the passing game as well, going 11-of-20 for 126 yards in place of the injured Nick Fitzgerald and with his head coach, Dan Mullen, bolting Starkville for Gainesville.

Jackson finished the game 13-of-30 passing for 171 yards and two touchdown passes to go along with the four picks.  He also added a game-high 158 yards rushing.

The success of the dual-threat quarterbacks produced something on the ground not seen very often.

In the first half, Jackson also joined Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick as the only players in FBS history to account for at least 50 passing touchdowns and 50 rushing touchdowns in their careers.   Jackson now has 69 career passing touchdowns and 50 on the ground.

Mississippi State’s win was the first for the SEC after the conference started the 2017 bowl season 0-3.  The SEC had been the only Power Five league without a win in the postseason.

Louisville has now won at least eight games in each of the last six seasons, including four under Bobby Petrino.  In fact, In Petrino’s four seasons in his second stint at the school, the Cardinals have won eight, eight, nine and nine games.

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 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, 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 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.