Louisville Cardinals

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 23: New starting quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans looks to pass in the first quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on September 23, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Sam Darnold becoming runaway favorite to win 2017 Heisman Trophy

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The 2017 college football season is a long way off, but that hasn’t stopped people from betting on who will win the 2017 Heisman Trophy.

Bovada released an updated odds sheet on Monday, and USC quarterback Sam Darnold has stepped away as the clear favorite to win the honor.

2016 winner Lamar Jackson and 2016 finalist Baker Mayfield are tied for second at 13/2 odds, followed by Alabama running back Bo Scarborough and Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Darnold finished the ’16 campaign ranked ninth nationally in passing efficiency, hitting 67.2 percent of his throws for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns against nine interceptions in 13 appearances (10 starts). He closed the year with a scintillating Rose Bowl performance, hitting 33-of-53 throws for 453 yards with five touchdowns against one interception in a 52-49 overtime win over Penn State.

One historical bullet point Darnold will have in his favor is that the clearest path to winning a Heisman comes from playing at a school with former Heisman winners. USC’s six previous winners trails only Notre Dame and Ohio State — the Trojans are tied if you count Reggie Bush‘s 2005 win — including Carson Palmer in 2002 and Matt Leinart in ’04.

Nearly three dozen teams show interest in Clemson grad transfer

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass under pressure from Scott Pagano #56 of the Clemson Tigers during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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It was expected there would be a significant market for a Clemson defensive lineman leaving the Tigers as a graduate transfer. Suffice to say, that is indeed the case.

This past week, Dabo Swinney‘s football program confirmed that Scott Pagano would be leaving the team and transferring elsewhere. The head coach also revealed that the tackle would “probably” end up at a West Coast school to finish out his career.

Teams in that part of the country are indeed interested in the one-year rental, as are myriad others as 247Sports.com is reporting that 32 made contact with the lineman in the hours after his impending pending departure was announced. Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, USC, Washington and Hawaii are among the teams out west who have expressed interest.

A handful of Power Five programs further east have expressed interest as well, including Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Purdue, Texas and Texas A&M. Group Five teams that have shown interest include Charlotte, East Carolina, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, SMU, Temple and Utah State.

Coming out of high school in Hawaii as a four-star 2013 recruit, Pagano was rated as the No. 24 tackle in the country and the No. 2 player at any position in the state. Pagano started 13 games the past two seasons, four of which came in 2016.

Ex-Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd reportedly set to visit Louisville

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 12:  Jalen Hurd #1 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs with the ball against the Oklahoma Sooners during the game at Neyland Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Add an ACC football program as a potential landing spot for a former SEC running back.

Citing three separate sources, Scout.com is reporting that Jalen Hurd will visit the Louisville campus this weekend.  That website added “that Hurd has expressed an interest in playing tight end at the school he picks.”

It’s previously been reported that the 6-4, 240-pound Hurd has already paid a visit to Ohio State.  A pair of Pac-12 schools, Cal and Oregon, are also reportedly interested in the player.

According to the same Scout story, Hurd will not be leaving Tennessee as a graduate transfer, meaning he would have to sit out the 2017 season.  He’d then have one season of eligibility remaining that he could use in 2018.

In late October, Hurd stunned most observers when he decided to transfer from the Volunteers in the midst of the 2016 regular season.  Hurd’s mother indicated in a Facebook post at the time that she didn’t necessarily agree with her son’s decision, while his father fought back against speculation that the running back’s decision was triggered by a benching.

When Hurd left Rocky Top, he was leading the Vols in rushing with 451 yards.  At the time of his departure, Hurd was also 445 yards away from breaking Travis Henry‘s school record for career rushing yards.  Instead, his 2,634 yards leaves him in sixth place all-time.

Hurd was a four-star member of UT’s 2014 recruiting class who held an offer from, among others, OSU before signing with the Vols.  He’s yet to use his redshirt season.

Alabama DL Jonathan Allen wins Lombardi Award

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Jonathan Allen #93 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Myles Gaskin #9 of the Washington Huskies during the 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at the Georgia Dome on December 31, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Awards season in college football falls over a 2-week period in December, while February is typically reserved for music and movies. However, one last statue was still left to give to a college football player, and that player was Jonathan Allen.

The former Alabama defensive lineman was named the winner of the Lombardi Award, announced last night in Houston.

He defeated Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson to claim the honor. The Lombardi was founded in 1979 to honor the games’s best interior player, but expanded its criteria in 2016 to include all players.

“I was just in shock,” Allen told ESPN afterward. “Whenever you receive an award of this magnitude, it’s obviously a blessing.”

A senior now bound for the first round of the NFL Draft, Allen led Alabama’s top-rated defense by collecting 69 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He also won the Nagurski, Bednarik and Hendricks trophies while finishing seventh in Heisman voting.

Allen is the third defensive lineman in four years and the fifth in the last eight to claim the honor, following Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska, 2009), Nick Fairley (Auburn, 2010), Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh, 2013) and Carl Nassib (Penn State, 2015).

Enthusiasm from 2016 will help Louisville complete stadium upgrades a year in advance

LOUISVILLE, KY - SEPTEMBER 07: A general view of the Louisville Cardinals game against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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A funny thing happens when your football program has one of the most successful seasons in school history and you have a Heisman Trophy player on your roster. Donations tend to come in either more frequently or in higher volume. Thanks to a successful 2016 season, Louisville announced stadium renovations to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium will be able to be completed a year ahead of schedule and be ready in time for the 2018 season.

The school announced the acceptance of some extra significant donations from corporate sponsors Pepsi and Norton Healthcare, which recently donated $5 million to the stadium project.

“We are extremely appreciative for Norton Healthcare’s generous gift to allow this project to forge ahead,” Tom Jurich, Louisville Vice President and Director of Athletics said. “They have always been a tremendous partner for our department, and this major gift certainly strengthens their commitment. The project is moving along steadily, and I’m very grateful for everyone who has contributed to the future of this program. Their gifts have enabled us to move up the completion date.”

Stadium renovations on Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium were announced prior to the 2015 season and officially got under way last November following the conclusion of the 2016 regular season. The project will add 10,000 additional seats in the north end zone, closing up the bowl structure rather than keeping the one end of the stadium without seats. Being able to get a jump start on selling potentially 10,000 new tickets a year ahead of schedule is great news for Louisville and the school’s finances, as it was not originally planning to have the additional ticket (and concession?) revenue for another year. Every little bit helps, right?

As long as everything goes to the upgraded timeline, Louisville will play its first football game in the expanded and renovated stadium on September 8, 2018 against Indiana State, a week after opening the 2018 season in Orlando against Alabama.