See ya, Sooners: A&M, Manziel roll Oklahoma in Cotton Bowl

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It’s been a busy few weeks for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Trips to the late night talk show circuit, meeting celebrities and finally coming out of A&M’s media shell could have been enough to distract the redshirt freshman from Friday night’s Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma.

Instead, showing maturity beyond his years, Manziel looked just like the player that earned the Heisman the month before. Manziel accounted for 287 passing yards, 229 rushing yards (a bowl record for a quarterback) and four touchdowns as the No. 10 Aggies handed No. 12 Oklahoma a Texas-sized beating in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13.

But it wasn’t just Manziel who had a big day. Senior receiver Ryan Swope finished with 104 yards and a score, playing the second half after apparently rolling his ankle. And, of course, A&M’s offensive line deserves credit for giving its quarterback ample time to throw, and when there were simply no opportunities downfield, run. The Sooners had no answer for any of it.

O-line play was a major reason A&M finished with 633 yards, a Cotton Bowl record. The Aggies concluded the 2012 season as the first SEC team with over 7,000 yards of offense and Manziel finished with over 5,000 yards. It won’t get as much attention as the offense, but A&M’s defense held too when it mattered most. Oklahoma had two early chances to score touchdowns inside the 10-yard line and had to settle for field goals both times.

Not bad for the SEC rookies.

The Cotton Bowl win brings to mind A&M’s first appearance during SEC media days this summer. First-year coach Kevin Sumlin was asked repeatedly about what he thought life was going to be like in the SEC with an undertone indicating that the Aggies would be in for a bloody debacle resulting, at absolute best, in five or six wins.

How’d that work out? A&M has surpassed just about every expectation this year except its own. Then, the Aggies came back and beat the co-champions of their former conference. It’s a disappointing end for the career of Sooners quarterback Landry Jones and another tough bowl loss for Bob Stoops, once known for his record in big games.

Although too much is often made of bowl games for better or worse, the Aggies will undoubtedly be near the top of a few more preseason polls heading into the 2013 season and Manziel will be an early favorite to repeat as Heisman winner.

That’s a good eight months away and plenty can happen in a year. For one, A&M’s O-line — the same one that allowed Manziel to do anything he wanted tonight — will be replacing key starters, but the talent and the coaching is there. With some good fortune,  A&M will have the chance to eye bigger goals.

Clemson lands No. 1 overall player in Class of 2020

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Clemson has managed to dominate college football without really dominating the college football recruiting rankings. Since 2015, the Tigers’ classes have ranked, in order, No. 9, No. 11, No. 16, No. 7 and No. 10, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Those are good classes, to be sure, but not necessarily great ones; they’re the type of classes you’d expect to lead to a team competing for ACC championships and New Year’s Six bowls, not beating Alabama in the national championship game twice in three years.

Clearly, Clemson’s coaches have cornered the market on finding a few great players and a bunch of really good ones, then developing them to all play like great players. The question then becomes: What happens if Clemson starts recruiting a bunch of great players? What happens if, in addition to playing like Alabama, Clemson started recruiting like Alabama?

We’re about to find out.

The Tigers on Tuesday landed Bryan Breese, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive tackle from Damascus, Md., who happens to be the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2020, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.

“At the end of this little run I was really between Clemson, Georgia and Penn State and over that last visit everyone talks about you’ll feel it and I didn’t understand that till the last visit and I got the feeling and knew where I was supposed to be,” Bresee told 247Sports.

But Tuesday’s news wasn’t just about Breese. He became Clemson’s first 5-star commitment of this class, joining a group of 11 4-stars that vaults the Tigers over Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the 2020 team rankings, with three less players on board than the Crimson Tide. Beyond Breese, Clemson is also favored to land 5-star quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, 5-star defensive end Jordan Burch and 5-star Myles Murphy, all of whom rank in the top 10 nationally, plus 5-star linebacker Antoine Sampah, who ranks No. 31 in the country.

If all that comes to pass, Clemson could follow one of the best seasons ever with one of the best recruiting classes ever.

“This class could be by far one of the best classes ever,” Bresee said. “I think definitely one of the best classes for Clemson.”

Transfers from Rutgers, Coastal Carolina land at same FCS school

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The same FCS program has double-dipped in the NCAA transfer portal, FBS division, in bulking up the talent on its football roster.

Monday afternoon, Albany announced via social media that running back Alex James and fullback Max Anthony have officially signed with the program.  James, a redshirt junior, comes to Albany from Coastal Carolina, Anthony, a fifth-year senior, from Rutgers.

As both players come to the Great Danes from the FBS ranks, they will each be eligible to play immediately in 2019.

The past two seasons for the Chanticleers, James has rushed for 475 yards and seven touchdowns on 114 carries.  He also caught 16 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown.

Anthony had started six of the 27 games in which he played for the Scarlet Knights.

Witness in hoops trial claims he paid football players from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, others

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A sweeping college hoops scandal that’s engulfed the sport has now touched its gridiron counterpart.

Marty Blazer, a Pittsburgh financial advisor-turned government informant after pleading guilty to securities fraud charges, took the witness stand Tuesday in the college basketball fraud trial and levied some potentially explosive allegations.  As part of his testimony, Blazer alleged that, between 2000-14, he paid football players from, among others, Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State and Pitt.  The payments, some of which were in the thousands of dollars, were aimed at convincing the player to remain in college and not enter the NFL draft in the hopes that they would retain him as their financial adviser when they did turn pro.

The names of specific players were, for the most part, not mentioned by Blazer.

The most damning of the accusations made by Blazer seems to involve Penn State during the Joe Paterno era.  Specifically, Blazer alleges that he paid the father of then-Penn State player Aaron Maybin $10,000, with the payment being made at the behest of an unnamed Paterno assistant coach.

If accurate, the NCAA would consider such an arrangement a major infraction.  It’s unclear what, if any, action The Association will take on the football side of the accusations made under oath.

Requests for comment from each of the football programs mentioned in Blazer’s testimony have not yet been met with a response.

Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak latest QB to enter transfer database

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You can go ahead and add Kentucky to the burgeoning list of FBS schools that have lost signal-callers to the infamous portal.

On his personal Twitter account Tuesday morning, Kentucky’s Gunnar Hoak wrote that, “[a]fter much thought and consideration, I have decided to put my name in the NCAA transfer portal.” As Hoak is set to graduate from UK very early next month, the quarterback would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS program immediately in 2019.

As an added bonus for whichever school he ultimately chooses, Hoak has two seasons of eligibility available.

After losing out in the quarterback competition that ended in summer camp, Hoak spent the 2018 season as starter Terry Wilson‘s primary backup.  In that role, Hoak completed 13 of his 26 passes for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Coming out of high school in Dublin, Ohio, Hoak was a three-star 2016 signee.