Clemson, FSU bringing the ACC back to the spotlight

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For the second year in a row, Clemson and Florida State will put the ACC under the national spotlight in a contest of top ten teams. The last time the ACC had two top-ten teams play each other in a conference game before last year’s top ten clash between Clemson and Florida State was when Matt Ryan was leading Boston College on an improbable BCS Championship run. The Eagles were ranked second in the AP poll and traveled to No. 8 Virginia Tech for a Thursday night football game. Boston College escaped the game with a 14-10 victory but their BCS dreams were shattered a couple of weeks later with a home loss to Florida State. That game between the Hokies and Eagles was played on October 25, 2007.

Now it is up to Clemson and Florida State to show off just what the class of the conference is capable of doing once again.

No. 3 Clemson hosts No. 5 Florida State in one of the biggest games in the conference’s history, at least in recent memory. The showdown has all of the makings for a classic battle with division bragging rights and a chance to pursue a BCS Championship awaiting the winner. The winner of this particular match-up has gone on to play in the ACC Championship each of the last four seasons, and the two have won the last two ACC championships.

ACC championships are nice of course, but it has been a while since the ACC had a national title contender. Could the winner of this game enter that role last filled by Florida State in 2000*?

If Clemson wins…

The ball is in Clemson’s court. Or, to use a football metaphor instead of a basketball analogy, the Tigers will be in the red zone. A win will give Clemson two wins over top five teams, including the season opening win over Georgia. A quick glance at the remaining schedule shows some favorable match-ups the rest of the way in ACC play. Clemson plays their next two games on the road but they come against Maryland and Virginia. Clemson should be the favorite in those games, and despite looking to be an improved team this season the Terrapins of Maryland were blasted by Florida State, 63-0. Clemson may not put together that same kind of result, but the Tigers should be a solid favorite in each of their two games heading in to a bye week.

The rest of the November schedule could set Clemson up nicely for a final push in the rankings, if they end up needing it. Getting Georgia Tech at home after a bye week will be a nice bonus. Georgia Tech may be able to play some defense, but Clemson’s offense should be able to overcome any threat. The big test will come against rival South Carolina. Clemson travels to Columbia for the rivalry game. South carolina enters this weekend ranked 11th in the country. Could the Gamecocks move up a few more spots to give Clemson one more win over a top 10 team?

A win over South Carolina would help push Clemson over the edge, but a win over a top ten Miami team in the ACC Championship Game would also help the cause. Clemson’s best bet would be to have Miami continue to run the table, which would include a win over Florida State.

Tajh Boyd would likely benefit in the Heisman race with a win as well. Clemson has never had a Heisman Trophy winner.

If Florida State wins…

The road back to national prominence will continue, but heir path to a potential spot in the BCS Championship Game should be trickier to navigate. Rivalry games against Miami and at Florida will not be easy, but are certainly games Florida State can win. Aside from Miami, the ACC schedule the rest of the way is favorable for the Seminoles. Florida State gets North carolina State, Miami and Syracuse at home and the only ACC road game left is at Wake Forest. Florida State also gets a home game against Idaho before traveling to Gainesville to play Florida.

The the question becomes who would Florida State play in the ACC Championship Game, and would that opponent be able to help push Florida State past a conference champion from the Pac 12 (Oregon?) or Big Ten (Ohio State?). If all goes to plan for Florida State, they will have already beaten Miami, but the Hurricanes could realistically be set up for a rematch in Charlotte. Or would it be best to beat Miami and hope Virginia Tech does the same the following week? The Hokies are ranked in the top 20 right now, and could start moving up the rankings enough to crack the top ten if things work out. That would be the scenario Florida State fans would be hoping for to pad their BCS profile.

Like Boyd for Clemson, a win over the Tigers would help push freshman quarterback Jameis Winston in to the leading candidate category for the Heisman Trophy. The Seminoles have had two players win the award before (Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke), and the freshman stigma has already been shattered, so the door is open.

* Miami played for the BCS National Championship in the 2001 and 2002 seasons, but did so as a member of the Big East.

Kerry Coombs officially returns to Ohio State as DC

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The Ohio State Buckeyes football program has, as expected, brought back a familiar coaching face.

Speculation has been growing of late that Ryan Day would be adding Kerry Coombs to his OSU staff. Monday afternoon, the Buckeyes confirmed that Coombs has indeed returned to the program as defensive coordinator.

Coombs will replace Jeff Hafley, who left last month to become the head coach at Boston College.

In January of 2018, Coombs left OSU to take a job with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.  Prior to that, he was on Urban Meyer‘s staff for six seasons.

“Kerry Coombs is the coach I was really hoping we could hire and bring back to Ohio State,” the Ohio State Buckeyes football head coach said in a statement. “He is an excellent coach and he has had two outstanding seasons in the NFL on Mike Vrabel’s staff with the Tennessee Titans.

“I’ve spent a season on staff with Kerry and I really like his coaching and knowledge of the game, but I also like that he knows Ohio State and he knows how to recruit to Ohio State. He’s recruited some of the players currently on the team and he coached a handful of Buckeye defensive backs who went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.”

All six seasons he was at OSU, Coombs was cornerbacks coach.  He was promoted in 2017 to assistant coordinator, defense. He was also special teams coordinator from 2013-17.

Five corners who had Coombs as their position coach  — Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby and Denzel Ward — went on to become first-round NFL draft picks.

Coombs, a longtime Ohioan, spent the past two seasons as the Titans’ cornerbacks coach.

This will mark the 58-year-old Coombs’ first job as defensive coordinator at any level of football.

Jalen Hurts to represent both Alabama and Oklahoma at Senior Bowl

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The departure of Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma was nothing but class. Not surprisingly, his departure from the college game will be just as classy — with the help of all-star game officials and a helmet company.

In January of last year, Jalen Hurts announced that he would be transferring from Alabama to Oklahoma for his final season of collegiate eligibility.  At the time, Nick Saban lauded the quarterback for “[t]he way he managed [the 2018 season]… and I think he showed a tremendous amount of class.”

After leading Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff — and with Alabama sitting out the CFP for the first time ever — and being named as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Hurts saw his collegiate career end with a throttling at the hands of LSU.  As he gets set to embark on what he hopes will be a career in the NFL, Hurts will take a huge first step in that direction by competing in the Senior Bowl.

Traditionally, the all-star game, which is played in the state of Alabama, features players who wear the helmets of the school from which they came.  Hurts will do the same, albeit with a twist.

On one half of the helmet, Hurts will wear the Alabama shade of Crimson with his old No. 2 on the side.  The other half, Hurts will have the Crimson of Oklahoma with the OU logo on it.

Hurts was surprised with the helmet, specially-made by the Riddell company, at a press conference in Mobile Monday evening.

Riddell actually made two of the custom helmets.  One will be worn by Hurts during the game.  The other will be auctioned off, with the proceeds benefitting charity.

For those interested, the Senior Bowl will be played this coming Saturday.  Kickoff is set for 2:30 ET.  The game will be televised by the NFL Network.

Miami lands AAC Defensive Player of the Year as grad transfer

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It has been quite the day for the Miami Hurricanes football program on the personnel front.

After some initial uncertainty, D’Eriq King announced earlier Monday that he will be transferring to the Miami Hurricanes football team.  Not long after, Quincy Roche announced that he will be doing the same.

The Temple defensive end entered his name into the NCAA transfer database earlier this offseason.

“This was not an easy decision, but without a doubt the best decision for me and my family,” Roche wrote on Twitter. “I am ready to bring leadership, toughness and [hard work] to the University of Miami Hurricanes football program as we push to win the ACC championship.”

The decision to transfer to Miami came after Roche took a weekend visit to Virginia Tech.  According to 247Sports.com, “[t]he elite edge rusher also drew interest from schools like Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, Baylor, Ole Miss, N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Texas and Rutgers amongst others.”

Roche, a three-star 2016 signee, was tied for third nationally in sacks with 14 and 11th in tackles for loss with 19 this past season.  Following the regular season, Roche was named as the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year.

As is the case with King, Roche will be coming into the Miami Hurricanes football program as a graduate transfer.  This coming season will be the lineman’s final year of eligibility.

The twin transfer additions did not go unnoticed by UM head coach Manny Diaz.

There’s an interesting twist to Roche’s addition to the roster.

Roche, as previously stated, comes to Miami from Temple.  Diaz was named as Temple’s head coach on Dec. 12 of 2018; exactly 17 days later, he abandoned the Owls to take the same job with the Hurricanes.

Miami’s opponent to open the 2020 season?  Temple, at home.

Feleipe Franks transfers from Florida to Arkansas

Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks will transfer to Arkansas and be eligible to play in the fall.
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Former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks has made his transfer decision. He will be an Arkansas Razorback.

Franks is a grad transfer, which will make him eligible for Arkansas this fall. Even better for Arkansas is Franks will be enrolled in classes and be available to work out with his new team this spring. That means Franks will get a chance to go through a full spring practice schedule for his new program under brand new head coach Sam Pittman. Arkansas will also get its first spring practice in with new offensive coordinator Kendall Briles. It should go without much saying the Arkansas offense will have a new look in 2020.

A starting job may not yet be guaranteed for Franks at Arkansas, but he will be the most experienced option available. If Franks gels well with his new team this spring, that starting job may quickly become his to lose, if it is not considered that already. Franks is coming back from a season-ending ankle injury.

Arkansas will certainly be getting an experienced passer. Ranks passed for 4,593 yards and 38 touchdowns during his time at Florida, which included some time as the starter for the Gators. Franks also made a visit to Kansas while evaluating his options since deciding he would move on from Gainesville.