USC, the preseason No. 1 team, falls to 7-6 after Sun Bowl loss

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There are few teams that have fallen farther from grace this season than West Virginia. USC managed to do it, though.

The preseason No. 1 team has been the biggest disappointment in college football this year. The depth issues facing the Trojans were becoming impossible to ignore in the preseason, but it was hard to predict USC losing five out of its final six games, including today’s Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Max Wittek, replacing the injured Matt Barkley, went just 14-of-37 for 107 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions as the Trojans fell to the Yellow Jackets 21-7. Aided by blustery conditions, Wittek overthrew receivers all day and had a hard time connecting with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. But the redshirt freshman also generally had one mode for throwing the ball all afternoon: as hard as he could.

Wittek is young and will learn from the experience, but his performance was an impression of how Lane Kiffin once again was unable to make successful second half adjustments — if there were adjustments at all. For the third time this season, the Trojans failed to score in the second half of a game.

Kiffin calls the offensive plays, yet USC had just 205 total yards and had just seven first downs the whole game without the help of penalties. For perspective, that’s 182 yards less than what Georgia Tech, which fired defensive coordinator Al Groh midseason, allowed on average per game all year, and only 1-AA Presbyterian scored fewer points against the Yellow Jackets in 2012.

And it’s Monte Kiffin, USC’s defensive coordinator, who is retiring.

Of course, you can blame the game conditions or the inexperience of Wittek, but USC showed from the first down of play that it had no interest being in the Sun Bowl. Not that it was some gigantic secret.

So now USC becomes the first preseason No. 1 team since 1950 to lose six games in a season. It’s final loss came against a team that needed a bowl waiver just to get to the postseason.

It was going to be interesting to see how Wittek played since it appears he’s the future for USC at the quarterback spot, but the Sun Bowl turned into a disaster where little, if any, positives could be taken away for the Trojans.

Kiffin’s going to need a banner season in 2013 now more than ever. If he doesn’t, it will likely be his last in Los Angeles.

Manny Diaz confirms QB Tate Martell is open to a position change

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So there you have it.  Sort of.

Instead of bringing it on and competing with Georgia transfer Justin Fields for the starting quarterback jobTate Martell hightailed it out of Ohio State earlier this offseason and ultimately landed at Miami shortly thereafter.  Granted immediate eligibility with the Hurricanes, and seen as a slight favorite to win the starting job, Martell instead saw Jarren Williams stake his claim as QB1 as Manny Diaz named the redshirt freshman the Hurricanes’ starter earlier this month.

Losing out on the starting led to Martell bailing on practice, even as he ultimately returned.  Not long after, it was reported that Martell had begun working with Miami’s wide receivers.

Wednesday, the Hurricanes’ head coach confirmed that, as the Miami Herald put, Martell is receptive to a potential position change.  The Herald also noted that Martell wasn’t wearing the traditional orange jersey normally worn by quarterbacks and also met with the running backs and wide receiver positional groups following practice earlier today.

“It’s like anybody else we have,” Diaz said of a potential position change for Martell. “Anybody will help by doing anything that’s available, so yeah.”

The intimation coming out of South Florida seems to be that, if Martell loses out on the backup job to N’Kosi Perry, he would then shift his focus to another position, although that has yet to be officially acknowledged.

Martell was a four-star member of OSU’s 2017 recruiting class, rated as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country.  After redshirting as a true freshman, Martell threw for 269 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-28 passing this past season while also running for another 128 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

Report: West Virginia LB VanDarius Cowan suspended four games

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Even as he left Alabama, it doesn’t appear VanDarius Cowan has been able to leave off-field issues behind.

According to a report from 247Sports.com, Cowan has been suspended for West Virginia’s first four games of the 2019 season.  The only reason given was unspecified “NCAA eligibility issues.”

The suspension will sideline Cowan for games against James Madison, Missouri, NC State and the Big 12 opener against Kansas.  The linebacker would then be eligible to return for the Oct. 5 game against Texas.

Cowan was a four-star member of Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class.  In July of last year, he was dismissed by the Crimson Tide after being charged with misdemeanor assault.  A month later, he landed at West Virginia.

The Florida native sat out the 2018 season to satisfy NCAA transfer bylaws.  He’s been expected to be a significant contributor this coming season.

Third Maryland player tears ACL this offseason, with LB Durell Nchami being the latest

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Maryland has seen a player sidelined for a significant period of time by a serious knee injury.

The latest Terrapin to suffer such a setback is Durell Nchami, with first-year head coach Mike Locksley confirming Tuesday that the linebacker has been diagnosed with a torn ACL.  The true sophomore suffered the injury during a scrimmage this past Saturday.

Nchami, who will undergo surgery once the swelling subsides, will be sidelined for the entire 2019 season.

As a true freshman this past season, Nchami played in 10 games and was credited with 15 tackles, 4½ of which were for a loss.  While not expected to start this season even before the injury, Nchami was expected to play an even bigger role in sub packages this year.

“[It’s a] blow to us because of depth, that’s a big concern for us,” Locksley said. “We’ve got a really strong core group of players, but our depth is an issue. So again, we’ve got to continue to find ways to keep our guys healthy and it’s a shame because he was actually playing really well, really taken the next step.”

Nchami is the third Terrapin to suffer a torn ACL this offseason, joining wide receiver Jeshuan Jones (HERE) and Antwaine Richardson (HERE).

Lawsuit filed against Houston claims racial discrimination in process that led up to hiring of Dana Holgorsen

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On Dec. 30 of last year, Houston officially fired Major Applewhite as its head coach even as speculation about his future at the AAC school had flared for days.  Just three days later, Dana Holgorsen left West Virginia to take over for Applewhite in Houston.

And therein lies at least a bit of an issue with which the university now has to deal.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Dr. Kevin Simms, president of the African-American Coaches Association, has filed “[a] lawsuit… against the University of Houston that accuses the school of discrimination and failure to properly post its head football coaching position.” The suit claims that the university violated state law by failing to post the position for a minimum of two weeks, filing complaints with both the Texas Workforce Commission and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Simms is seeking $20 million in compensation in the suit, which also, coincidentally enough, is the total value of the contract signed by Holgorsen.

From the Chronicle‘s report:

The lawsuit seeks damage for “loss (sic) wages, loss (sic) earning capacity, future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenient (sic), mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life …” Simms requests a jury trial.

In the lawsuit, Simms claims to have “over 30 years of coaching experience and is clearly more qualified than Dana Holgersen (sic).” A search found no listings of any previous coaching jobs for Simms.

The lawsuit adds, “the University of Houston continues to bypass African-Americans in applying and being considered for the head football coach position as it does not adhere to the job posting and advertising requirements.

(Writer’s note: Yes, Holgorsen’s name was misspelled in the lawsuit.)

The suit further cites an April 30 Sports Illustrated article in which a deal between Holgorsen and UH superbooster Tilman Fertitta was reportedly reached on Dec. 22 for the head coach to replace Applewhite.  The verbal agreement was put together, per the article, shortly before UH was steamrolled by Army 70-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.

“The University of Houston believes this case is without merit and looks forward to its resolution,” the school said in a statement.

(Tip O’ the Cap: our very own Zach Barnett)