Harbaugh officially ditches The Farm for money-green NFL pastures

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Along with more reputable media outlets, we had been told multiple times by several different sources that, if Jim Harbaugh were to leave Stanford, his inclination would be to ply his coaching wares in the NFL.

Unfortunately for the Cardinal faithful — and, as it turns out, Michigan fans as well — that turned out to be precisely the case.

Eschewing a very real and legitimate shot at the Wolverines vacancy, or remaining at Stanford with a 2011 Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback firmly in his back pocket, Harbaugh has instead opted to take his talents to the next level.  Culminating a week’s worth of rumors attaching him to various NFL openings, Harbaugh has officially agreed to become the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Harbaugh was introduced at a press conference Friday afternoon local time after agreeing in principle on a five-year, $25 million deal.

“Jim Harbaugh has done an outstanding job of advancing the football program at Stanford University and I am grateful for all of his tremendous work,” athletic director Bob Bowlsby said in a statement. “Coach Harbaugh has led the program with integrity, vision, enthusiasm and energy and his teams have played with precision and exceptional passion. Jim has been a relentless recruiter and he has been successful in enticing some of the finest scholar-athletes in the nation to attend Stanford University. We wish Jim all the best with his new challenges and we know that he will continue to be highly successful.”

“We are grateful to Jim Harbaugh for re-energizing the Stanford football program over the past four years,” university president John Hennessy said. “He helped build momentum that we are confident will continue into the future.  We made Jim the best offer we could commensurate with our role as a university.  We wish him the best of luck and look forward to his continuing contributions to football in the Bay Area.”

As for where Stanford will now turn for a replacement, the current scuttlebutt is that the school may very well look to stay in-house.  Specifically, offensive coordinator David Shaw and associate head coach/assistant head coach offense Greg Roman have been mentioned as very real possibilities.  Roman was reportedly a finalist for the Vanderbilt opening, and will interview for the Pittsburgh job Sunday.

Other possibilities that have been winding their way through the grapevine?  Oregon State head coach Mike Riley and Tulsa head coach Todd Graham.  The latter has already interviewed for the vacancy at Pittsburgh, while the former would appear to be a longshot at best, especially after being considered the top contender to replace Pete Carroll at USC last January.  Riley ultimately turned down the opportunity, and signed a contract extension through the 2019 season with the Beavers.

Given his deep Pac-10/West Coast roots, and the fact that he’s not currently attached to a coaching job, former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti will most certainly be mentioned as well.

Regardless of where the Cardinal ultimately turn, this is a very, very significant blow for a program that’s very much on the rise and is/was poised to be a major player on the national scene for years to come.  Fortunately for those with a vested interest in the program, Harbaugh left the team in much, much better shape than when he first took over.

Utah (tersely) addresses departure of four-star 2018 QB signee

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It’s officially official that Utah has lost its highest-rated quarterback signee ever.

Wednesday, multiple reports began flowing in that Jack Tuttle had decided to transfer from the Utes. Thursday night, the university acknowledged in a press release that “Tuttle is no longer participating in team activities for reasons unrelated to academics or discipline.”

In the very brief release, the football program’s head coach also offered up an equally terse statement.

“We wish Jack the best and have no further information to add at this time,” Kyle Whittingham stated.

The California product was a four-star member of the Utes’ 2018 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the country. Tuttle enrolled early and was a part of Utah’s quarterback competition beginning in the spring and continuing on into summer camp, although he entered the season as the team’s No. 3 signal-caller.

Tuttle didn’t play in any of the Utes’ first six games, even as the Deseret News noted that “he was the only freshman elected to the team’s leadership council.”

As for Tuttle’s future, 247Sports.com had previously reported that possible destinations may very well include, among others, Ohio State, Duke, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and West Virginia. Prior to signing with Utah, Tuttle held offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, LSU, Nebraska, USC and Wisconsin as well as others from both Power Five and Group of Five schools.

Stanford grinds out win on the road over Arizona State to remain in the Pac-12 hunt

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Stanford’s offense was stuck in quicksand out in the desert early against Arizona State.

Eventually though, the Cardinal found their way out of a tricky situation on the road to embark on a string of scoring drives that helped them capture a 20-13 win over the Sun Devils in Tempe on Thursday night and keep their Pac-12 title hopes alive in the process.

With an ailing Bryce Love (21 yards on 11 carries) re-injuring his ankle early in the second half and the team unable to mount much consistency running the ball either way, Stanford put the game in the hands of their budding quarterback K.J. Costello by utilizing a ball-control version of the Air Raid. The young signal-caller went 22-of-29 for 231 yards and a touchdown while helping spark a run of four straight scoring drives surrounding halftime that essentially won them the game on a lackluster night when it came to offense.

Lengthy wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside managed to find the end zone for a ninth time this season (on a non-jump ball, no less) and record 91 yards while Trent Irwin was not far behind with seven catches for 79 yards. Cameron Scarlett was the primary guy after Love in the backfield with 54 yards and a touchdown with Stanford winning the time of possession battle by nearly nine minutes.

Though the final score wound up close for the home team, the Sun Devils were doomed throughout the night by something extremely uncharacteristic: turnovers. ASU game into the game with just two giveaways all season but wound up with three total and could have had one more if not for a kind replay review operator for the Pac-12. QB Manny Wilkins was responsible for two of those turnovers, fumbling in the first half on a designed run and then throwing an awful arm punt-esque interception that Sean Barton easily picked off. The signal-caller finished with 353 yards passing all told but it was quite the up-and-down performance for the offense overall with only 13 points to show for it.

Sophomore tailback Eno Benjamin had one of his least productive games of the season at the wrong time with just 81 total yards just a few weeks removed from rushing for over 300 in another conference game. While his numbers (63 yards on seven catches) managed to look okay, star receiver N'Keal Harry had a fairly quiet game and didn’t do much as a punt returner either.

The loss, while far from the worst one suffered by a team in the valley of the sun on Thursday, was the fourth this season for Herm Edwards by one score or less and dropped the team to 1-3 in conference play. With trips to USC and Oregon upcoming and a home date with Utah still on the docket, rallying to make a bowl game will be no easy task going forward as the momentum from that big win over Michigan State has all but evaporated in Tempe.

As for David Shaw’s side, Stanford remains in the hunt in the Pac-12 North with just one loss and that key tie-breaker over the Ducks. If they truly want to contend in the conference though, the offense will need to step up in terms of rushing the football with Washington State and Washington posing serious challenges in the weeks ahead.

Those are concerns for another time however as the team will certainly celebrate a win that, while ugly at times, still counts all the same in the standings.

Bryce Love, N’Keal Harry bottled up in lackluster first half between Stanford and Arizona State

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If you asked any fan on the West Coast prior to the 2018 season who two of the most explosive playmakers were in the Pac-12, they would nearly all say it was a combination of Stanford’s Bryce Love and Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry.

Naturally when those two super exciting players got together in an actual football game, neither of their respective teams managed to do much at all offensively in a rather lackluster first half in Tempe on Thursday night. The Cardinal did manage to take a 6-3 lead going into the locker room after two quarters in a pivotal conference game for both teams but it wasn’t pretty — at all — in a game that was much more bad offense than it was good defense.

Love seemed to be hit in the backfield on just about every snap as Stanford once again struggled to run the ball consistently (2.7 yds/carry), with the one-time Heisman favorite recording just 13 yards on nine carries. That put a little extra pressure on quarterback K.J. Costello, who finished 13-of-19 for 123 yards in the first half while also dealing with a hand injury that was bleeding for most of the night.

Manny Wilkins did throw for 137 yards but fumbled on a designed run that was the team’s third turnover of the season. His running mate Eno Benjamin couldn’t get much going either with 19 yards on seven carries while Harry had three catches for only 16 yards and also threw an interception on a trick play.

Hopefully the halftime break is just what both sides need to breakout of their offensive slumps and get a little #Pac12AfterDark action going. Because as it stands, neither of these two teams have much to write home about after the first half.

Baylor-Texas Tech shifting from AT&T Stadium back to campus after moving off Thanksgiving date in 2019

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After several years of spending Thanksgiving in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Texas Tech and Baylor are returning to campus for their annual conference game and doing so much earlier than normal too.

As part of the Big 12’s release of the 2019 schedule on Thursday, the conference confirmed that the annual game will not be played on Thanksgiving weekend at AT&T Stadium — the site of the game since 2009, with one exception — and has instead been shifted to October 12 next season at the Bears home field of McLane Stadium in Waco. The return game will go back to Lubbock in 2020 at a future, unreleased date.

While some fans will delight in making the trip to the banks of the Brazos or heading out to West Texas for the first time in a while, it seems both schools would have preferred to remain at JerryWorld the week of Thanksgiving but scheduling at the stadium seemed to play an issue in the site not being available when the two teams needed it to be.

AT&T Stadium is quite busy that time of year between the Dallas Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving game, Texas high school football playoffs at the venue and the Big 12 title game taking place in early December as well. It doesn’t sound like a return is being ruled out in the future but it will be 2021 at the earliest before that happens for the Bears and Red Raiders.