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Texas rallies for crucial win over No. 8 Baylor

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If beating Baylor is a requisite for keeping his job, Charlie Strong may have done just that. Barely.

The Longhorns rallied from eight points down in the fourth quarter, capped by a 39-yard screwball of a Trent Domingue field goal with 46 seconds remaining, to hand No. 8 Baylor its first loss and improve to 4-4 on the season with a 35-34 win. Arriving into Saturday’s game losing four of his last five games, Strong needed to beat Baylor to avoid continuing a streak that has seen every Texas coach since 1951 lose to Baylor in his final season.

Baylor opened up a 7-0 lead but Texas scored 23 of the game’s next 30 points thanks to the Foreman brothers — wide receiver Armanti and running back D’Onta — and some timely defense. The brothers accounted for all 88 yards on the Longhorns’ first touchdown drive to tie the game and, after P.J. Locke snared a tipped interception on the first play of Baylor’s next possession, D'Onta Foreman raced 37 yards to give Texas a 14-7 lead just 3:55 into the game.

After Baylor tied the game on the ensuing possession, Armanti Foreman inadvertently set up Texas’s next score when he fumbled a long completion from Shane Buechele (291 passing yards, two touchdowns) at the 2-yard line. Texas forced a safety by way of a holding call on the next snap, re-claiming the lead at 16-14 at the 8:43 mark of the second quarter, and D’Onta Foreman pushed the advantage to 23-14 with a 9-yard run with 6:35 to play.

The Bears responded by registering four of the game’s next five scores, including a 15-yard strike to K.D. Cannon with just nine seconds left before the break. Baylor took the lead at 28-26 with a 2-yard Terence Williams run at the 8:21 mark of the third quarter, and two Chris Callahan field goals — from 24 and 27 yards, it’s worth noting — nudged the advantage to 34-26 midway through the fourth quarter. Despite rushing for 398 yards on the day, Baylor could not convert a pair of 1st-and-goal situations, and that inability ultimately cost them the game.

Texas marched 79 yards, capped by a 7-yard strike to tight end Andrew Beck, to pull within 34-32 with 7:03 to play, but the Longhorns put the ball in Swoopes’s hands and not Foreman — who entered Saturday as the nation’s second-leading rusher and carried for a career-high 250 yards today. Swoopes was stuffed.

Baylor moved the ball on the ensuing possession from its own 22 to a 1st-and-10 at the UT 29 with 3:47 to play, but lost eight yards on a sack of Seth Russell, a 2-yard loss by running back JaMychal Hasty and an incomplete pass, forcing a punt. Texas traveled 58 yards to set up Domingue’s game-winning field goal and, rather than heave the ball down the field, Baylor attempted to move in position for a game-stealing field goal through a series of Russell designed keepers — despite having only 46 seconds to work with and no timeouts. They didn’t come close.

Cost of attendance not having negative recruiting impact on Group of Five (yet)

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The outlook on the impact cost of attendance has on non-power conference institutions may not be known for another year or so, but after one recruiting cycle since the power conferences were granted autonomy powers, cost of attendance stipends have not been seen to be a major difference in the game as one might have thought originally.

Underdog Dynasty took a look at the issue and how Group of Five schools have fared. The initial findings suggest Group of Five programs are not struggling nearly as much as once suspected when it comes to cost of attendance stipends, although it is something that not every program has jumped into providing just yet. And yes, the topic of stipends does pop up on the recruiting trail, which suggests the Group of Five programs that can provide a little extra money as part of a player’s enrollment do figure to have some sort of advantage. However, stipends do not appear to be a game changer on a massive enough scale.

From Underdog Dynasty;

Another fear from last season was that smaller athletic departments couldn’t afford it. Those may have been overblown as well. My Google search turned up news of South Dakota State phasing in COA stipends for all student-athletes, something North Dakota and North Dakota State already have done.

All three are FCS schools. If they can afford the stipends, albeit funding 63 football scholarships rather than 85, G5 schools should as well. Even the Sun Belt distributes more than $1 million per school in College Football Playoff payouts.

Houston, of the American Athletic Conference, just landed a recruiting class that would make a good number of power conference programs jealous, although the Cougars were the only Group of Five program to finish ranked in the top 50 in the final team rankings compiled by Rivals (BYU finished No. 48). Boise State, UCF and Temple fell in the upper half of the FBS mix as well.

Just as one year of the College Football Playoff system did not provide enough empirical evidence to suggest the Big 12 should expand to 12 just to get a conference championship game, one year of cost of attendance stipends is not nearly enough to suggest it has a devastating or minimal impact on the recruiting game in college football. This is just something that will have to be watched for a few more years in order to gather more evidence to evaluate.

Michigan and Notre Dame could be rekindling their football series

AP Photo/Beth A. Keiser, File
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The bitter divorce between Michigan and Notre Dame on the football field could soon be forgiven. There are hints and clues the series could be heading to a revival.

Michigan athletics director Jim Hackett started lighting the fire for the rivalry series renewal discussion last week when he mentioned during a radio interview the two schools have opened communication on the subject.

“I will tell you this, the relationship is good, and it started with [Jim Harbaugh] and coach [Brian Kelly] working together on a desire to play together,” Hackett said. “But (there’s) nothing firm yet.”

In 2013, when the two schools were beginning to play what was to be their final game son the existing contract, Kelly downplayed the rivalry with Michigan by noting it has not been one of the best rivalries in Notre Dame’s history. In his defense, he is right. In fact, Notre Dame has a more storied history with Michigan State, not to mention USC or Navy.

“I really haven’t seen it as one of those historic, traditional Notre Dame rivalries,” Kelly said according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve seen it as just one of those great football games that Notre Dame has played.

“For me, I’ve been in Michigan a long time, I’ve always felt the Notre Dame-Michigan game was a big regional game. But in the Notre Dame history books, this game has (been) played, but obviously there have been some years where it hasn’t been played for a number of years.”

Kelly did later go on to say he was optimistic the series with Michigan would return in the future. Harbaugh was quick to follow up on the idea of playing Notre Dame again. Now we just sit and wait to see when that may become a possibility.

Scheduling for both Michigan and Notre Dame have become a bit more complex in more recent years than it used to be. Notre Dame is part of an ACC scheduling rotation that guarantees a certain number of power conference opponents from the ACC each season and the Irish continue rivalry game son an annual basis with USC, Stanford and Navy. Michigan is moving to a nine-game Big Ten schedule with the requirement to play at least one power conference opponent in its non-conference slate each season. The Wolverines already have that requirement met through the 2027 season but have shown a willingness to schedule two power conference opponents in a season, which is the case in 2020 and 2021 (games vs. Washington and Virginia Tech in alternating home-and-home deals).

Cam Newton is first Heisman Trophy winner to win NFL MVP since Barry Sanders

AP Photo/Butch Dill
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On the eve of the Super Bowl, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was named the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League. He is the first Heisman Trophy winner to win the NFL’s MVP award since Detroit Lions running back and former Oklahoma State star Barry Sanders was named the best player in the NFL in 1997. Sanders shared the MVP honors that season with Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, which means Newton is the first Heisman Trophy winner to be the outright winner of the NFL’s MVP award since 1985, when Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen won the award (Allen was a Heisman Trophy running back for USC in 1981.

Newton becomes the first quarterback to win the top honor at the college and NFL level and joins a short list by becoming the sixth player to receive both awards. Newton was a Heisman Trophy quarterback for Auburn during the 2010 season, in which he fueled a BCS Championship Run. Newton now can become the first player in football history to win the Heisman Trophy, a college national championship, NFL MVP and a Super Bowl. To do that, Newton will have to lead the Panthers past the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, who is perhaps one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time but was passed over for a Heisman Trophy by Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 (Manning finished second in the voting that season).

It is somewhat amazing to think that grand slam of football has never been achieved once since the NFL MVP award was first awarded by the Associated Press in 1957, but it also goes to show that sometimes the best players in college and the NFL do not always achieve the top-level of championship success.

Players to win Heisman Trophy and NFL MVP

  • RB Paul Hornung
  • RB O.J. Simpson
  • RB Earl Campbell
  • RB Marcus Allen
  • RB Barry Sanders
  • QB Cam Newton

For second straight season, Texas lands Big 12’s top recruiting class

Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
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For all the criticisms Charlie Strong has been on the receiving end of during his brief time as head coach of the Texas Longhorns, his process appears to be working according to plan. For the second straight season, Texas will land the Big 12’s top-rated recruiting class, including one of the two five-star players in the Big 12’s Class of 2016.

Despite a late signing day addition of five-star linebacker Caleb Kelly by Oklahoma, Texas still had a strong hold on the top recruiting class in the Big 12, according to the Rivals rankings, with 10 four-star players and a five-star of their own. Baylor has nine four-star players and Oklahoma has eight. TCU has six and no other program in the conference has more than two.

When Strong took over in Austin, he had a significant rebuilding job to get started, but this being Texas meant pressure to turn things around as if he were making instant oatmeal. The problem is Texas boosters want prime rib but with microwave dinner speed. It just does not work that way, even for a program that should have no problem recruiting like Texas. The truth is, compared to its Big 12 peers, the Longhorns have not struggled to keep up in the recruiting rankings. The problem has more been in the development process and staying healthy. For the past decade, Texas and Oklahoma have come in the top two spots of the Big 12 recruiting rankings in one order or another. The overall talent level of the Big 12 may have dipped over that time, but when it comes to the Big 12 the talent is still managing to find its way to Austin. The results on the field, however, have been a different story.

As noted earlier today, seeing Texas land four stud recruits on national signing day was an oddity for the program, but it may have been a sign that things are indeed changing. Texas generated signing day buzz, which can be a stepping stone to building the program moving forward. Strong is trying to move the Longhorns back to the top of the state of Texas, and this latest recruiting class was a giant step forward in that master plan.

For the first time since Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the SEC, the Longhorns finished ranked ahead of the Aggies in the Rivals team rankings (texas actually finished ahead of A&M in the Class of 2012; Texas A&M began play in the SEC later that year). That is significant, as it shows the Longhorns are starting to reclaim their standing in the state. Now it will be about developing the talent Strong is acquiring to mold the team even more to his liking to take the next step. First it must climb the Big 12 standings in the fall. Then it can focus on the next goal of returning to national prominence.