TUCSON, AZ - OCTOBER 11:  Defensive Coordinator Justin Wilcox of the USC Trojans during warm ups to the college football game atagainst the Arizona Wildcats  Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Cal officially names Justin Wilcox as new head coach of the Bears

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It’s been in the works for several days but finally became official on Saturday afternoon: Justin Wilcox is the new head coach at Cal.

“It has been a dream of mine to lead a college football program and there’s no better place than here at Cal where I got my start and at a school that means so much to me,” Wilcox said in a statement. “I would like to thank Director of Athletics Mike Williams and his staff for putting their trust in me with the Cal football program. I’m looking forward to getting to know our team and hiring our staff, and we will get to work immediately recruiting student-athletes of high character who are good fits for Cal both academically and athletically. I can’t wait to get started.”

This is Wilcox’s first head coaching position but will be his second stint in Berkeley after coaching linebackers at the school from 2003-2005. He most recently spent the past season as the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin but has plenty of Pac-12 experience from stops at Washington, USC and as a player at Oregon.

Just minutes after the news was officially released about Wilcox, West Virginia also announced that that former Bears offensive coordinator Jake Spavital was taking the same position in Morgantown. As a result, it will be interesting to see what kind of staff Wilcox puts together over the coming weeks as recruiting ramps up in the days and weeks leading up to National Signing Day.

FSU confirms WR Travis Rudolph leaving ‘Noles for NFL

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Travis Rudolph #15 of the Florida State Seminoles makes a touchdown reception against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
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It was reported Thursday that the 2016 season was the last for Travis Rudolph at Florida State.  A day later, that’s been confirmed.

FSU announced via a press release that Rudolph is foregoing his remaining eligibility and declaring for the 2017 NFL draft. “This was a very difficult decision and one that I didn’t take lightly,” Rudolph said in a statement, adding, “It has truly been an honor to wear the Garnet and Gold.”

Rudolph will leave Tallahassee seventh on the football program’s all-time charts in career receptions with 153 and eighth in receiving yards with 2,311.  This past season, he led the Seminoles with 56 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns.

The 6-1, 192-pound wide receiver’s best catch, though came when, on a trip to a Tallahassee middle school by the FSU football team, he noticed an autistic boy eating lunch by himself and joined him.

Mike Williams makes early move from Clemson to NFL official

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Wide receiver Mike Williams #7 of the Clemson Tigers makes a reception against defensive back Anthony Averett #28 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the fourth quarter of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Mike Williams‘ Robin to Deshaun Watson‘s Batman was indeed one hell of a final act at the collegiate level for the dynamic duo.

As most of the universe had expected, Williams announced via Twitter Wednesday that he is leaving Clemson early for the NFL.  The announcement comes one day after Williams’ partner in passing crime, Watson, confirmed the same.

Both decisions come after their Tigers staked its claim to the football program’s first national championship in 35 years.

After a serious neck injury cost him the vast majority of the 2015 season, Williams came back in 2016 to finish with 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the title game, Williams caught eight passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, including a huge 24-yard reception on the game-winning drive.

At this point, Williams is viewed by most as the top wide receiver in the April draft.

New pro league would help players bypass college, prep for NFL

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - SEPTEMBER 10: This is the 50 yard line marker in Rice Eccles Stadium before the Utah Utes and Brigham Young Cougars college football game on September 10, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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College football’s talent pool could get a bit shallower if one “in-between” football league comes to fruition.

According to the esteemed Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, a handful of individuals, including Mike Shanahan, ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter and officiating guru Mike Pereira among others, are among a group in the midst of creating what’s being called Pacific Pro Football.  Unlike other pro leagues, however, the PPL wouldn’t look to compete with the NFL; rather, it will look to develop college-aged players in the pro-style aspects of the sport, particularly on offense, and becomes what Wetzel writes is “a place with a preferable set-up for training and identifying potential draft picks.”

Each team in the four-team league, all based in Southern California initially, would consist of 50 players, with those players receiving $50,000 apiece — and full workers’ comp — instead of tuition. The league, which is tentatively scheduled to begin play in 2018, would also offer tuition reimbursement if a player wanted to go to a community college. There would be an age limit, with players only permitted to compete up to being four years removed from high school.  Those who have already played a year or two in college would also be welcome, provided they’re not beyond the age limit — someone looking for a non-NFL option for his fifth year would not be permitted to play in the PPL.

As for the financial particulars, Wetzel writes that “[a] round of angel funding recently closed and additional funding efforts are possible.” There’s also hope that a media rights deal could be reached as the group includes former ESPN and FOX Sports executives.

If the league is ultimately launched, the season would consist of a maximum of eight games (six regular season, up to two playoff games) and be played on Sundays in July and August. The following, from Wetzel’s report, though, will likely most raise the interest of those in the NFL charged with procuring talent:

  • Each team will have eight full-time coaches with pro and college experience, plus about eight part-time assistant coaches.
  • Play will be pro-style, and based on development and evaluation. For instance, there will be no spread offenses. Quarterbacks will take snaps under center, need to call plays in the huddle and identify defenses at the line of scrimmage. There will be a premium put on one-on-one plays to get viable tape. For example, perhaps rules that prohibit crossing routes for receivers.

Also of interest to the NFL?  None of the practices will be closed as is the case at some colleges, although most of the successful programs provide extensive access to NFL personnel any way.

Non-qualifiers coming out of high school who would normally go the junior college route before heading to the FBS level would seemingly be prime candidates to join the league.  Because of NCAA bylaws, however, they couldn’t go from the PPL back to college football because they would’ve been paid to play the sport.  The league could also be a landing spot for players who find themselves with academic or even legal issues after beginning their careers at the collegiate level.

Wetzel himself acknowledges, though, it would have little effect on big-time college football.

It certainly won’t be the preferred option for every player. The majority of the best college-age players seek the glamor and excitement of the collegiate game.

No one thinks it will topple, or even adversely impact major college football. Certainly, there will be a few less players, but Alabama or Clemson isn’t under any threat of needing to shutter its program.

One of the biggest impacts this league, if it actually launches and is even mildly successful, could have: drive college coaches back toward more of a pro-style offense and away from the spread offenses that have somewhat leveled the playing field all across the sport.  In its never-ending quest to find the unicorn also known as a serviceable quarterback, let alone a franchise one, the NFL will leave no stone unturned.  One of the biggest issues the NFL faces is trying to project how a successful spread quarterback will translate to the pro game.  If a quarterback has spent the previous three years being tutored by former pro coaches on the pro-style game, why wouldn’t the NFL at least give them the same look they give a successful college spread quarterback?

And why wouldn’t the quarterbacks themselves seek out a route to the NFL that wouldn’t have them learning a spread offense for 3-4 years before having to unlearn it?  Conversely, there’s no replacement for steeling and improving yourself against high-level competition, so that would be something both the player and the pros would need to factor in as well.

Another potential impact, if the league were to thrive and grow beyond its Southern California roots? Creating a bigger gap between the Power Fives and Group of Fives by siphoning off talent. By and large, the big names in the high school recruiting game will still go the collegiate route and opt for big-name programs; it’s the shallower end of the talent pool, the recruiting fields the G5s harvest, that would potentially be drained by the PPL.  Three four-team “pods” — Southern California, Northern California, Midwest — with 50 players each means 600 highs schoolers who may otherwise be available to FBS programs would suddenly vanish and have an effect on the G5s’ recruiting bottom lines as the P5s will still get theirs.

All of that, and the effect it would have on the FCS hasn’t yet been mentioned, either.

There is another potential game-changer, if the league is successful and puts players in the NFL causing the salaries to jump from $50,000 a year to, say, $100,000. Or even $150,000  Then, Houston… and Alabama… and Florida… and campuses all across the country, the college football game could have a problem.  That, of course, is a long way down the road, but this league and what if any viability it may have is certainly something to keep an eye on if you’re a fan of the sport.

Rematch revenge! Clemson knocks off Alabama to win the 2017 National Championship Game

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In order to be the champions, you had to beat the champions. Mission accomplished for Clemson.

A historic rematch for the ages lived up to the hype thanks to a wild and career-defining fourth quarter that saw the Tigers win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game in dramatic fashion 35-31 over Alabama.

The two defenses dominated the game early and often as many predicted given the number of stars on that side of the ball. Neither team found much success on third down (just nine combined conversions) and the passing game was inconsistent for both teams outside of a few big plays.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead behind the strong running of tailback Bo Scarbrough, who continued to abuse opponents with his punishing running style. He found the end zone early in the first quarter by scampering off to the left side of his big offensive line and finding pay dirt after 25 yards for the game’s first points. His second touchdown was even better than the first, using a few key blocks from his tight end and left tackle to hit the edge and scamper 37 yards for the score, running over a few defenders and carrying a few more on his back into the end zone.

Unfortunately the sophomore was injured in the third quarter with a leg injury, putting all the pressure on young quarterback Jalen Hurts. While he never looked too much like a true freshman, passing the ball was a struggle most of the night until he found a wide-open O.J. Howard for a 68-yard touchdown that had plenty thinking back to last year’s title game where he had a career outing.

That wasn’t enough to contain a determined Deshaun Watson in the final quarter however, as the signal-caller marched his team 88 yards in just six plays before leaping into the end zone for the first Clemson lead of the ball game with just under five minutes left. It was a vintage performance from the college superstar (who finished 36-of-56 for 420 yards and three touchdowns), which included several key hookups with receiver Mike Williams and a few key runs that moved the chains.

The Tide didn’t seem phased however, answering right back in a wild sequence of events. They broke out of their offensive malaise with a surprising trick play that found Howard for a big gain once again to enter Clemson territory. That’s when Hurts finally used his legs to find the end zone, scampering 30 yards to the goal line as he weaved and ducked out of numerous tackles.

Watson wasn’t done yet though, and saved his best for last with the game and his legacy on the line.

Facing a defense that was operating at a historic level coming into the game, Watson sliced and diced the Tide for a nine play, 68 yard march toward the end zone. With a make or break play coming up, the game’s offensive MVP dropped back and smoothly found ever reliable target Hunter Renfrow wide open in the end zone with just one second left.

That set off a wild celebration among the Clemson faithful as the school celebrated its second national title — and first since 1981 — in the sweetest of fashions. It was a game for the ages given the ending and tense final moments but will no doubt be remembered for an incredible drive that culminated in a championship for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers.