Utah Utes

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

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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.

Former Alabama QB Cooper Bateman enrolls at Utah, reportedly set to walk-on with the Utes

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Cooper Bateman #18 of the Alabama Crimson Tide warms up prior to facing the Mississippi Rebels at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 19, 2015 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Utah’s offensive makeover this spring appears to be even more interesting than first thought.

The Salt Lake Tribune passes along the news that former Alabama quarterback Cooper Bateman has enrolled at Utah this semester and is expected to walk-on to the football team. The report notes that the former four-star prep signal-caller could play a position other than being under center, such as receiver, but it seems chances are high that he’ll at least be given a look as his natural spot behind center.

Bateman went to high school not far from the Utes’ campus but has spent the past four seasons as a backup with the Crimson Tide and figured to do the same for his final year of eligibility with starter Jalen Hurts firmly entrenched.

While the Utes do have a returning starter at quarterback as well, there may be a bit of an open competition for the job this spring with new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor taking over. Troy Williams figures to take the first snaps when practices get underway but he’ll have to hold off backup Tyler Huntley and likely one or two incoming freshmen as well.

Bateman doesn’t have a ton of big numbers from his time in Tuscaloosa (410 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions) but he could be another possible option for a Utah team looking to improve their offense to the point where it’s much more competitive in the Pac-12 South.

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.

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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Final AP poll: Clemson No. 1; USC rockets to No. 3; Ohio State drops to No. 6

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The votes are in and — surprise!!! — Clemson’s the media’s king as well.

The Associated Press released its final 2016 rankings Tuesday morning, with Clemson, off their stirring win over the cyborg that is Alabama football, claiming the No. 1 spot in the last Top 25 of the 2016 season.  As expected, the Tigers claimed all 60 first-place votes, while the Crimson Tide earned all 60 second-place votes to finish No. 2 in the final AP poll.

Up next is the a team that will no doubt be the media darling throughout the offseason — I’m already guilty, as you’ll see shortly —  with USC moving from ninth to third on the strength of the epic Rose Bowl win over Penn State (fifth to seventh) as well as a nine-game winning streak to close out the season.  Ohio State, which was shutout by Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal, tumbled from second to sixth.

The remainder of the Top 10 is rounded out by Washington (No. 4), Oklahoma (No. 5), Florida State (No. 8), Wisconsin (No. 9) and Michigan (No. 10).

Three Group of Five teams managed to finish in the final Top 25, although none came in higher than 15th: Western Michigan (No. 15), South Florida (No. 19), San Diego State (No. 25).  Two of those teams will have new coaches in 2017, with Charlie Strong replacing Willie Taggart with the Bulls and a too-be-determined replacing P.J. Fleck with the Broncos.

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