Sneak Peek: 2013 AutoZone Liberty Bowl

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WHO: 6-6 Mississippi State (SEC) vs. 10-3 Rice (Conference USA)

WHAT: AutoZone Liberty Bowl (55th year)

WHERE: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN: Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. ET

WHY: Mississippi State will be appearing in a bowl game for the fourth straight year, the first time in the program’s 112-year history that’s happened. Rice, on the other hand, has earned a postseason berth in back-to-back seasons for just the second time, with the first coming in 1961-62.

If the way the regular season holds to form, the effectiveness of both running games — or the opposing run defenses — will play a significant role in the the outcome.

The Conference USA champion Owls, who bring a four-game winning streak into the bowl game, are far and away the more reliant of the two on the ground game, averaging a robust 240.2 yards per game that’s good for 15th in the country. The key to Rice’s running game is senior tailback Charles Ross, who leads the team with 1,252 yards and has accounted for 14 of the Owls’ 30 rushing touchdowns. The Bulldogs are 45th in rushing with 185.8 yards per game and are led by starting quarterback Dak Prescott‘s 751 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Both of the run defenses are middle-of-the-pack nationally, with the 48th (151.1 ypg) and the Owls 54th (155.4 ypg).

To say that the two teams struggle in the passing game would be an understatement. The Owls are 92nd in passing yards per game (185.5) while the Bulldogs are 65th (240.3). Prescott, who replaced the injured Tyler Russell, is a dual-threat quarterback who relies heavily on the run portion of the threat as he’s prone to interceptions — he matched his seven touchdown passes with the same number of picks in 239 attempts. Rice’s starter, Taylor McHargue (no relation), has thrown eight picks in 309 attempts, although he has also thrown 17 touchdown passes in an offense that would much prefer to make its hay on the ground.

MSU’s average passing attack could be further exposed by a Rice defense that’s 13th in the country after allowing 195.7 yards per game through the air.

The two programs from distinctly different conferences do have one common opponent: Texas A&M.  The Owls also to the Aggies 52-31 in the season opener, while the Bulldogs fell to A&M 51-41 Nov. 9.  Both of those games were played in College Station.

PREDICTION: Rice 27, Mississippi State 24

LSU students will go to class on Saturday to make up for national title game

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LSU students who got to skip class for the national title game (and the ensuing celebrations…) were hit with a dose of reality returning to Baton Rouge on Friday.

According to an announcement from the university, classes that were cancelled on Monday and Tuesday for the championship game have been rescheduled. As a result, students will have to go to class on Saturday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Feb. 8.

So yes, Saturdays in the fall have resulted in a few Saturdays of work in the spring.

The school had received a bit of criticism when it was announced that classes were cancelled on the dates surrounding the championship game. While the practice has happened elsewhere, the nature of the game being less than an hour from campus in New Orleans certainly made things unique for the Tigers and their large fan base.

While some students no doubt had hoped that the classes at the time were indeed cancelled, it turns out they were in fact just being rescheduled. Going to school on a Saturday probably isn’t what many had in mind when signing up for the spring semester but there’s probably not a soul in purple and gold will take issue with the change given that it comes as a result of hoisting the ultimate football trophy on Monday night in the Big Easy.

Virginia safety Chris Moore enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal has claimed another name.

As first noted by ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Virginia safety Chris Moore has entered his name into the database as he explores a move out of Charlottesville.

Moore started five of his nine appearances for the Cavaliers in 2019 and wound up recording 42 tackles. While he was in line to become one of the key members in the secondary going forward, a prior  suspension for violating team rules back in November may have wound up playing a role in his departure and standing with the team.

The safety had previously missed all of the 2018 season with an injury as well.

Moore was originally a three-star recruit out of Ashburn, Va. in 2016 and, assuming the redshirt senior has a degree, likely has a season remaining as a grad transfer.

DL Jay Tufele, WR Tyler Vaughns skipping draft to stay at USC

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Clay Helton has a lot of issues to deal with at the moment. Having a talented USC football team is not one of them.

The Trojans received a rare bit of good news on Thursday evening as two key players announced they were skipping the 2020 NFL Draft. In back-to-back announcements, defensive lineman Jay Tufele and wideout Tyler Vaughns confirmed they would remain in Los Angeles for the 2020 season.

Tufele is one of USC’s best defensive players. He recorded 42 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season as a redshirt sophomore despite dealing with a handful of injuries. With leading sacker Drake Jackson also back, there’s a nice tandem up front for whoever the team hires as defensive coordinator to work with going forward.

Vaughns returning also makes a dangerous receiving corps that much deeper. Michael Pittman Jr. was lost to graduation but the next three top wideouts are set to be back in 2020. Add in a group of solid tailbacks and both J.T. Daniels and Kedon Slovis at QB and USC will once again have one of the top offenses in the Pac-12.

Whether it will all help save Helton’s job again remains to be seen. If nothing else though, there’s at least there’s some positive news for the cardinal and gold this offseason with Tufele and Vaughns back in the fold going forward.

Nebraska and OC Troy Walters “mutually agreed to part ways”

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A year after significantly falling short of expectations, an offseason of change has commenced at Nebraska.

In one of the first big moves since Scott Frost took over at his alma mater, the Cornhuskers and offensive coordinator Troy Walters announced on Friday that they had ‘mutually agreed to part ways.’

“Troy has been a valued member of our coaching staff for the past four years,” Frost said in a statement. “Troy is a good mentor for his players, provides great energy on and off the field, and carries himself with a presence off the field that will be missed. I want to thank him for his work on our coaching staff, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”

The duo first came together when Frost was hired at UCF and led a number of prolific offenses, including the undefeated 2017 team for the Knights. Walters was a finalist for the Broyles Award that same season though has not called plays for either team.

Walters had a distinguished career as a player at Stanford that included All-American honors and a Biletnikoff Award in 1999. He spent several years in the NFL before going into coaching during stops at Texas A&M, N.C. State and Colorado.

The departure of Walters could interestingly lead to a reunion between Frost and a familiar name in Mark Helfrich. The latter was head coach at Oregon when Frost was elevated to offensive coordinator for the Ducks and is in search of a job after being let go by the Chicago Bears from a similar role.