Report: Browns have already interviewed Bill O’Brien

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With the Cleveland Browns reportedly targeting Oregon’s Chip Kelly as their next head coach, the NFL club has apparently been doing its due diligence in case they swing and miss.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and citing an unnamed source, the Browns have already interviewed Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien for their vacancy.  The interview allegedly took place at some point earlier this week.

It had been speculated on earlier in the week that O’Brien had been seriously considering listening to NFL overtures.

O’Brien has been with the Nittany Lions for just one season, but was hired before the NCAA slammed the football program with historic sanctions that may or may not stick.  It’s been rumored that his buyout is all little as $9.s million and as much as just over $18 million.

The Browns as well as the Philadelphia Eagles have, at least in large part, focused their search on coaches from the collegiate level.  Kelly is expected to be interviewed by the Browns tomorrow, followed by interviews with the Eagles and Buffalo Bills if the AFC North team can’t seal the deal immediately.

The Eagles have also been mentioned as an NFL club that will make a “heavy push” for O’Brien; it’s unknown if Philly has followed the Browns’ purported lead and already talked to the Nittany Lions coach.

Finally, in other Browns-related coaching news involving a college coach, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com reported earlier today that Cleveland interviewed Syracuse’s Doug Marrone in Arizona.  Marrone was expected to interview with the Bills this week as well.

UPDATED 8:48 p.m. ET: According to Pete Thamel of SI.com, “Penn State is in the midst of a massive push to keep O’Brien… and has received positive indications that he’s strongly considering staying.”

Thamel went on to write “that the university is tugging at O’Brien’s heartstrings and attachment to the school that gave him his break to be a head coach.”

Whether or not the heartstring tugging, in concert with what’s expected to be the requisite bump in pay, will be enough to keep O’Brien in Happy Valley remains to be seen.

Michigan State staying mum on starting QB

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Brian Lewerke or Rocky Lombardi? Stay tuned to find out.

Lewerke, the starter for most of the last two seasons, has been working his way through an injury to his right (throwing) shoulder. His streak of 20 straight starts was snapped last month because of the injury as Lombardi took over in the win over Purdue, although Lewerke returned to start the last two games.

In that last game, a loss to Ohio State, Lewerke struggled mightily (again), leading to questions as to just who will get the starting nod this Saturday against Nebraska. Posed that very question, Mark Dantonio declined to give any indication as to which direction he may be leaning.

“We make decisions and as we go forward those decisions become complicated at times, but we do the very best we can and everybody’s involved,” the head coach said by way of mlive.com. “I don’t really think it’s in this team’s best interest to air those decisions prior to football games. I think that’s something that needs to be kept in-house for everybody’s best benefits.”

Prior to suffering the injury in the Oct. 13 win over Penn State, Lewerke was completing 60 percent of his passes. Since then, he’s completing just 35 percent.

In his lone start, Lombardi went 26-of-46 for 318 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Duke loses DT Ben Frye to ACL tear

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Duke’s season of injuries continues unabated, with the Blue Devils’ defensive line the latest to suffer a hit.

Tuesday, Duke announced that Ben Frye has been diagnosed with a torn ACL and will, obviously, miss the remainder of the 2018 season. Per the school, the defensive tackle sustained the injury during practice last Wednesday.

The redshirt freshman has been credited with 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack in six games this season. Frye was a three-star member of Duke’s 2017 recruiting class.

This season alone, the Blue Devils have seen a dozen players with starting experience miss at least one game because of injury. Included in that group are defensive tackle Edgar Cerenord and defensive end Drew Jordan.

Top 10 stands pat in third edition of CFP rankings

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The third edition of the College Football Playoff rankings were unveiled Tuesday night and the top ten remained exactly the same from a week ago. Such a holding pattern was expected after the entire top 10 won a week ago.

It is the first time in the history of the CFP rankings the top 10 has remained the same from one week to the next.

Most notably, Oklahoma did not fall from No. 6 after being pushed to the limit by 5-4 Oklahoma State at home.

Kentucky was the highest-ranked team to lose, a 24-7 loss at Tennessee, and the Cats fell from No. 11 to No. 17.

UCF moved up to No. 11 and Syracuse to No. 12 ahead of their showdown with the Irish. UCF’s No. 11 ranking is the highest a Group of 5 team has ever appeared in 28 sets of CFP rankings.

Mississippi State remained the highest-ranked 4-loss team, edging out Northwestern at No. 21. Utah State, Cincinnati and Boise State joined the rankings in the final three spots.

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Georgia
6. Oklahoma
7. LSU
8. Washington State
9. West Virginia
10. Ohio State
11. UCF
12. Syracuse
13. Florida
14. Penn State
15. Texas
16. Iowa State
17. Kentucky
18. Washington
19. Utah
20. Boston College
21. Mississippi State
22. Northwestern
23. Utah State
24. Cincinnati
25. Boise State

Oregon grad transfer WR to redshirt, pursue second graduate transfer

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The two major rule changes in college football over the past decade have combined into one on the Oregon wide receiver depth chart.

Oregon wide receiver Tabari Hines, who arrived in Eugene by way of a graduate transfer out of Wake Forest, has announced he will take this season as a redshirt year and pursue a second graduate transfer elsewhere.

“Tabari Hines is not on roster right now,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal told The Oregonian.  “He is on the transfer portal. He will use this year to redshirt and transfer out.”

A native of Florence, S.C., Hines signed with Wake Forest as an early enrollee and caught 32 passes for 366 yards, a school record for a true freshman. Hines’s production increased from there, catching 38 balls as a sophomore and 53 as a junior — the most on the team.

However, Hines decided to try his luck elsewhere and left for Oregon, but has caught only three passes for 32 yards and one touchdown, all of them in a 62-14 win over Portland State in September. He has appeared in three games, none since Pac-12 play began.

Given that, Hines will use the new redshirt rule to take a mulligan and now find a third school to play for — or perhaps he realizes the grass wasn’t really greener and returns to Wake Forest.