Stanford Cardinal

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  (L-R) Head coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes shakes hands with head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide prior to the All State Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Seven National Signing Day Takeaways from the Class of 2017

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The T’s are crossed, the I’s are dotted and the Class of 2017 is in the books for college football programs across the country. What did we learn as National Signing Day came and went on Wednesday? Here are seven takeaways from the day that was as the calendar can officially flip forward and take us full steam into the upcoming season.

1. Illinois State won National Signing Day

Yes, tiny FCS program Illinois State was the biggest winner of National Signing Day bar none. Why? Simple, the Redbirds announced they had signed superstar All-Name first-teamer Kobe Buffalomeat. Yes, you read that right, his name is Kobe Buffalomeat. Soak up all that attention and more kid, you’ve earned it.

MORE: Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

2. Alabama dominates once again

Ho-hum, Alabama rolled to their seventh straight recruiting national championship. At this point, Nick Saban isn’t even reloading even more in Tuscaloosa — he’s refilling, refreshing and restocking the Crimson Tide shelves twice over. When you don’t even have enough room for a bleeping top 100 recruit who committed in a video from France, you know things are at just a different level than everybody else.

MORE: SEC National Signing Day recap: Alabama reigns supreme but Georgia isn’t far behind

3. Meyer, Harbaugh are waging Ten Year War on the recruiting trail too

As good as Alabama was in putting together their class, the Big Ten was no pushover thanks to the league’s two powerhouses and their two big name head coaches at Ohio State and Michigan. Urban Meyer assembled a class that was right there with any in the SEC and actually out-paced the Tide when it came to average star rating, finishing just a tick behind Saban and company thanks to a smaller number of scholarships. The Buckeyes wound up with five five-stars in all and the top rated player at three different position and the No. 2 player at six others. The OSU head coach was basically searching for flaws and having a hard time coming up with negatives. His opposite number up North was no slouch either, as Jim Harbaugh dipped into the heart of the SEC to grab a top defensive tackle and fanned out across the country to pull talent to Ann Arbor. There’s been a lot of talk of a new Ten Year War between the two rivals given their head coaches and we certainly are in for one given the way they recruit.

MORE: Big Ten National Signing Day recap: Ohio State lands historic class, Michigan not far behind

4. USC continues to recruit itself

We’re to the point where it’s safe to say that no matter what, USC is going to land a top five recruiting class on Signing Day. At least it seems that way after the Trojans once again closed in impressive fashion to dominate the headlines out west and even draw a few eyebrow raises from the southeast. Whether it was locally in Southern California or across the country in places like Utah, Arizona or Florida, the cardinal and gold was typically on the head of many top recruits during announcements. In a way, the strong push across the line with the Class of 2017 was fitting given the job Clay Helton did this past season. Those calls for a new coaching staff in Los Angeles seem so, well, five months ago.

MORE: Pac-12 National Signing Day recap: USC surges late once again but don’t sleep on Stanford

5. Programs deal with scandals in different ways

Every college football team goes through ups and downs but dealing with off the field scandals can sometimes affect programs in unexpected ways. We saw that play out a little bit for a few folks on National Signing Day. One the positive side, Matt Rhule and the new staff at Baylor did a mighty fine job shrugging off all the negative publicity from the sexual assault scandal (and seemingly daily headlines) to land a top 40 class. That’s far better than most predicted just a few weeks ago and was one spot behind Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, which nearly won the league title. The flip side was Ole Miss, a mainstay in the top 10 the past few years that had suddenly found itself at No. 30 overall — one spot behind Kentucky (and yes, it’s football we’re talking about). Head coach Hugh Freeze seemed fairly grumpy about NCAA sanctions hanging over the Rebels and that was clearly reflected with the less than stellar group he signed.

MORE: Big 12 records worst signing day in conference history

6. Awful season? Wouldn’t know it at some programs

All good things must come to an end and there were a number of teams that took a drastic step back in 2016. Among those that would rather forget last season were Notre Dame, UCLA, Oregon, Mississippi State and Michigan State. Nobody from that group ended up making a bowl game, the Ducks ended up hiring a new head coach while the others all made significant staff changes. Despite all that, the Irish landed a top 12 class on Wednesday, the Bruins secured the No. 1 overall recruit, Oregon and MSU found themselves in the top 25 of the team rankings while the Spartans managed a pretty solid haul.

MORE: ACC National Signing Day recap: Florida State, Clemson impress once again

7. It was a relatively drama-free day but there were still some surprises

Despite there being more attention than ever on recruiting, this seemed like one of the most drama-free Signing Days in a long, long time. Part of that had to do with so few uncommitted players heading into the week — and only one major decision really going against conventional wisdom when top-rated DT Marvin Wilson committed to Florida State. Despite the lack of drama, there were still a few surprises like Maryland finishing with a top 20 class that was eight spots better than Texas, Clemson not ranking as high as you would expect because of their super small class, Florida’s late surge toward a respectable top 10 group, Lane Kiffin stealing a commit and the Big 12 looking very lackluster outside of Oklahoma.

Pac-12 National Signing Day recap: USC surges late once again but don’t sleep on Stanford

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  USC Trojans athletic director Lynn Swann (L) and USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton (R) pose with the 2017 Rose Bowl trophy after defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions 52-49 to win the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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History repeated itself out West as USC once again proved to be among the elite programs when it comes to recruiting on National Signing Day. Echoing their strong surge to end the 2016 season, the Trojans added a string of high profile commitments on Wednesday to surge to yet another top five class.

As well as the Rose Bowl champions did though, they weren’t alone when it comes to putting together an impressive group of players. Stanford remained a force when it came to top-tier players, cleaning up with five-star offensive linemen while adding several future contributors all over the board. UCLA also made an impression by receiving pledges from a pair of five-stars and shook off that disastrous 2016 season to close with a top 20 class.

Even the Pacific Northwest schools did well, with Washington riding an appearance in the College Football Playoff to a top 25 class while rival Oregon managed to finish not far behind despite a wholesale staff change. So while things weren’t quite to the level of their SEC counterparts aside from a trio of California schools, it was nevertheless another strong Signing Day for the Pac-12.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 1 overall Jaelan Phillips (DE, UCLA), No. 5 overall Foster Sarell (OT, Stanford), No. 10 overall Walker Little (OT, Stanford), No. 15 overall Davis Mills (QB, Stanford), No. 20 overall Stephen Carr (RB, USC)

Top 25 classes: No. 4 USC, No. 14 Stanford, No. 19 UCLA, No. 21 Washington, No. 24 Oregon

Biggest storyline: Coffee is for closers… and USC recruiting

USC has always recruited well so it’s not exactly surprising to see them finish in the top five of the team rankings. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by yet another incredible closing stretch for the Trojans, highlighted by the signatures of five-star tailback Stephen Carr, wideout Joseph Lewis and four-star athlete Greg JohnsonClay Helton basically mirrored his team’s season on the recruiting trail, starting out slower than expected before zooming up the rankings with an impressive amount of talent.

Biggest surprise: UCLA and Oregon pulled in quite a haul

There’s no other way of putting it but UCLA and Oregon were among the most disappointing teams in all of college football last season. Despite those on-field struggles, the two Pac-12 rivals still did a ton of work on the recruiting trail to land top 25 classes. The Bruins not only hauled in the top recruit in the country in Phillips, but also really beefed up in the trenches with some nice additions. The headlines out of Eugene have been anything but pretty for new coach Willie Taggart but the Ducks still plucked some speedy skill position talent and really got better defensively.

Don’t sleep on: Stanford, Utah

The Cardinal are a different type of recruiting machine given their academic restrictions and the fact that they have to go so far nationally but David Shaw assembled a very impressive class in 2017. Because most of the players were already in the fold, there wasn’t much buzz about Stanford on Wednesday but don’t let that fool you with five-star offensive tackles and a wealth of impact playmakers headed to the Farm. Utah’s small class size probably hurt them when it came to the team rankings but Kyle Whittingham and staff really did a nice job of filling out depth while landing a few potential freshman starters.

We’ll see about: Colorado, Arizona State, Cal

The Buffaloes best season in a decade didn’t result in a top 25 recruiting class but that is not too concerning given how well the staff in Boulder can develop players once they arrive on campus. The one concern though, might be the fact that there wasn’t as many high end secondary talent brought in as you would expect for CU. Arizona State received the best news earlier in the week when they learned Alabama transfer Blake Barnett would be eligible right away but the real question is if the 2017 class will be enough to close the rather significant gap in the Pac-12 South right away, especially on defense. Justin Wilcox did ok for Cal on such short notice but the Bears remain behind the 8-ball in the division and the league overall after Wednesday.

Stanford and Rice will open 2017 season in Australia on August 26

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 22:  The Sydney Opera House is seen illuminated as part of the Vivid Sydney Festival on May 22, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. Vivid Sydney is an annual festival that features light sculptures and installations throughout the city. The festival takes place May 22 through June 8.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
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It looks as though opening the college football season down under may become a new annual event. A year after Cal and Hawaii kicked off the 2016 season in Australia, Stanford and Rice are now locked in to open the 2017 season in the Sydney Cup. The game between the Owls and Cardinal will be played in Sydney on August 26.

“This is a unique opportunity for us, one that I’m not sure we will have again in the near future,” Rice Director of Athletics Joe Karlgaard said in a released statement. “The Pac-12 has been expanding its outreach in the Pacific Rim the last few years, and we are excited to partner with Stanford for the game in Australia this fall. For our football players, many of whom have never been abroad, this trip will be as much about experiencing a new culture as it will be about the game itself.”

Talks about opening the season in Australia have been going on for a while now. Rice will be the home team in the matchup, meaning they will lose a home game on their schedule in the upcoming season. However, a chance to play in Australia is a bit of a rare opportunity and may be worth it for the experience. Cost, on the other hand, is quite a different story. Rice will lose a home game against a quality Pac-12 opponent.

As noted before, this will be the second straight regular season meeting between the two schools after Stanford hosted Rice in the 2016 regular season finale.

About-face: QB Ryan Burns opts to stay at Stanford

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Ryan Burns #17 of the Stanford Cardinal makes a pass during the first quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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It appears the quarterback position at Stanford won’t be quite as unsettled as it could’ve been.

Two weeks ago, reports surfaced that Ryan Burns would be leaving The Farm as a graduate transfer.  Now?  Not so much.

“I figured I have a great opportunity in coming back, getting another degree and learning from some phenomenal coaches for another year,” the rising fifth-year senior quarterback said in a statement to ESPN.com. “It’s also very important to me to prove to this team and to myself that I can be so much better than I was last year.”

Burns started the first seven games of the 2016 season after winning the job coming out of camp, but then lost it to Keller Chryst midseason.  Chryst, however, suffered a significant knee injury in Stanford’s Sun Bowl win over North Carolina late last month; that injury was subsequently reported to be a torn ACL, which will sideline him for the next six months.

Besides Burns, the Cardinal is left with K.J. Costello as the lone healthy scholarship quarterback on David Shaw‘s roster.  A four-star 2016 signee rated as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the country, Costello took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Preferred walk-ons Brent Peus and Jack Richardson are the only other current options at the position for Shaw and his offensive staff.  They also have a commitment from 2017 prospect Davis Mills, the top-rated pro-style passer in this year’s class.

Pac-12 announces 2017 schedule

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans scrambles prior to throwing a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Pac-12 announced its 2017 schedule on Wednesday, beginning with a New Mexico State-Arizona State/North Dakota-Utah double-header and ending with the conference title game, once again set for Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on the first weekend of December.

The headliner is USC, the league’s presumed champion and best shot at snapping its 12-year streak without a national title, playing 12 consecutive games without a bye week. The Trojans open with home games against Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas, and play straight through their Nov. 18 finale against UCLA at the LA Coliseum.

Speaking of UCLA road games, the Bruins have a lot of them — and they’re all tough. They’ll go on the road to face Memphis, Stanford, Arizona, Washington and Utah (over a 6-day stretch) before their finale at USC. The Bruins also host Texas A&M and Oregon.

Washington’s title defense will begin with a trip to Colorado (after another pillow-soft non-conference schedule of Rutgers, Montana and Fresno State) along with a key stretch that requires a home game with Oregon followed by a trip to Stanford six days later.

For the full schedule, click here.