Louisville Cardinals

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 17: Offensive lineman Lukayus McNeil #72 comforts quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals after being sacked by the Houston Cougars in the third quarter at TDECU Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Houston, Texas. Houston Cougars won 36 to 10. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
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Louisville reportedly pulls O-line coach Mike Summers away from Florida

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After a white-hot start, Louisville belly flopped through the end of the 2016 season. After rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, finishing seven yards shy of knocking off eventual national champion Clemson at Clemson and winning nine of their first 10 games, the Cardinals stumbled through the finish line, falling 36-10 at Houston, losing to Kentucky for the first time since 2010, then losing 29-9 to LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

The offensive line had a lot to do with that.

Despite playing in front of the most elusive quarterback in college football, Louisville finished third-to-last in college football with 47 sacks allowed and 94th in FBS with 83 tackles for loss allowed. Houston got to Lamar Jackson 11 times, Kentucky got to him three times (one off their season-high) and LSU sacked Jackson eight times, two more than their next best mark of the season.

Clearly, something needed to be done and it appears Bobby Petrino has done it.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported Saturday Louisville has hired Florida’s Mike Summers to coach the offensive line. FootballScoop reports Summers will receive a co-offensive coordinator title, and existing offensive line coach Chris Klenakis will transition to tight ends. (Full disclosure: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Florida finished the 2016 campaign tied for 71st in sacks allowed and tied for 49th in tackles for loss allowed but, with Jackson returning, merely moving from “terrible” to “average” would represent massive improvement for what is otherwise an explosive offense.

Deshaun Watson claims back-to-back Manning Awards

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after a touchdown by running back Wayne Gallman #9 (not pictured) during the fourth quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Deshaun Watson may be off to the NFL, but he’s taking one more piece of collegiate hardware with him.

Thursday, the Allstate Sugar Bowl announced that Watson, one of 10 finalists, has been named as the recipient of the 2016 Manning Award.  The Clemson quarterback won the Manning after the 2015 season, making him the first player to win the award in back-to-back seasons.

The other finalists for this year’s Manning Award were: J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Jake Browning (Washington), Sam Darnold (USC), Luke Falk (Washington State), Jalen Hurts (Alabama), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Zach Terrell (Western Michigan).  Seven of those 10 finalists (Barrett, Browning, Darnold, Falk, Hurts, Jackson, Mayfield) will return in 2017 with another opportunity to claim the Manning.

The award, named in honor of the quarterbacking Mannings — Archie, Peyton and Eli — is the only one to take into account a player’s performance in the postseason.  And what a postseason performance it was for Watson.

In the national championship game win over defending champ Alabama, Watson accounted for 463 yards of offense and four touchdowns against the vaunted Crimson Tide defense.  It was the perfect ending for a stellar collegiate career.

“Over the years, we have seen so many tremendous performances in the postseason, and this year we saw Deshaun Watson turn in an amazing two-game playoff performance,” said Archie Manning in a statement. “When the Allstate Sugar Bowl created the Manning Award in 2004, one of the key components was to recognize achievements throughout the entire year, including bowls, and now the playoff. This year is a prime example of why we do that.”

A Heisman finalist each of the past two seasons — some would say if the Heisman followed the Manning lead and voted after the postseason he would’ve won at least one — Watson also claimed the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas quarterbacking awards.  He also won the former in 2015.

Lorenzo Ward added to Louisville’s coaching staff

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 18:  Bobby Petrino the head coach of the Louisville Cardinals watches the action during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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The reshaping of Bobby Petrino‘s Louisville defensive coaching staff has continued.

Earlier in the day, Mississippi State confirmed that it had hired U of L defensive coordinator Todd Grantham for the same job. The U of L subsequently confirmed that the man Grantham replaced in Starkville, Peter Sirmon, would replace Grantham with the Cardinals, completing what was essentially a coordinator-for-coordinator swap.

Additionally, Petrino announced Wednesday the hiring of Lorenzo Ward as his defensive backs coach.  Ward replaces Keith Heyward, who left earlier this month for Willie Taggart‘s staff at Oregon.

Ward had spent the 2016 season as the coordinator at Fresno State.  Prior to that, he was on Steve Spurrier‘s South Carolina coaching staff for seven seasons.  For four of those seasons, he was the Gamecocks’ coordinator.

Ward and Petrino also have a previous working relationship, with the former working as the secondary coach on the latter’s Arkansas staff.

“Adding a coach with the experience of Lorenzo Ward is very exciting and will be a great addition to the University of Louisville football staff,” Petrino said. “Lorenzo is a guy I’ve known and respected for a long time, and saw the incredible job he did as the defensive coordinator at South Carolina. He does a tremendous job developing players, building relationships, working with a staff, and is one of the top recruiters in the collegiate game. I’m excited he will be joining our staff.”

Louisville losing DC Todd Grantham to same job at Miss. St.

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The ACC may have become the “it” college football conference this postseason, but the SEC is still the sought-after destination for coaches.

According to Pete Thamel of SI.com, Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has reached agreement on a multi-year contract to take the same job at Mississippi State.  It has been rumored over the last few days that current MSU coordinator Peter Sirmon could be on his way out after just one season in Starkville.

If the move comes to fruition, it would mark a return to the SEC for Grantham.

From 2010-13, Grantham served as the coordinator at Georgia.  He left for the same job at Louisville in 2014, serving in that capacity for the past three seasons.

In 2016, Grantham earned $1.3 million with the Cardinals, making him the fifth-highest-paid assistant coach in the country according to USA Today‘s salary database.  Suffice to say, Grantham will be looking at some kind of bump in pay for leaving for Dan Mullen‘s MSU coaching staff; how significant remains to be seen.

Mississippi State, incidentally, travels to Athens Sept. 23 this coming season to face Georgia.

UPDATED 12:09 p.m. ET: Speculation is that Sirmon will replace Grantham at Louisville.  More coming later.

UPDATED 12:42 p.m. ET: Mississippi State has confirmed the addition of Grantham as coordinator.  He’ll also serve as linebackers coach.

“Todd has proven to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the country this decade,” MSU head coach Mullen said in a statement. “He understands what it takes to build a physical and aggressive defense at the highest of levels. We are excited to welcome he and his family to Starkville.”

Alabama opens as Bovada’s early 2017 title favorite

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after throwing a 68-yard touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Alabama may have seen their dynasty temporarily derailed Monday night in Florida, but at least one wagering establishment expects Nick Saban to get it back on track post-haste.

Bovada.lv released its opening set of 2017 national championship odds very early Tuesday afternoon, with the bookmaker installing Bama as a 4/1 favorite coming off the loss to Clemson.  Last year at this time, coming off their fourth title in seven years, the same book had the Crimson Tide as a 7/1 favorite.

The team ‘Bama beat, Clemson, is at 16/1, tied with ACC Atlantic rival Louisville and behind six other teams besides the one they beat on the field last night — Florida State (7/1), Ohio State (15/2), Michigan (9/1), Oklahoma (9/1), USC (9/1) and LSU (12/1).  The other 2016 playoff team, Washington, is at 40/1, the same as 4-8 Notre Dame and behind the likes of Texas (28/1) and Miami (33/1).

Boise State, at 75/1, was the highest favorite amongst Group of Five programs.

Below are the complete list of 2018 title odds for the championship following the 2017 season, again courtesy on Bovada.lv:

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