Rose Bowl champions? Sparty yes! Michigan State holds off Stanford, 24-20

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In a game full of defensive talent, it was only fitting that the deciding play in the Rose Bowl turned out to be a 4th and 1 in the final minutes of the game. The Spartans came up with the big stop as No. 5 Stanford (11-3, 7-2 Pac 12) was down four points with the game on the line. With defenders leaping over a pile at the Stanford 34-yard line, No. 4 Michigan State  (13-1, 8-0 Big Ten) stuffed fullback Ryan Hewitt for no gain, allowing the Spartans offense to run out the clock for the fourth Rose Bowl championship in program history. Michigan State held on for a 24-20 win in Pasadena.

The game was everything it was expected to be, with defenses coming up with big plays, but in this one the Michigan State offense took control of the game. Michigan State rolled up 400 yards of offense and went on a 17-0 run to come from behind and carry all of the momentum in the second half. Michigan State dug an early 10-0 hole, but Connor Cook never gave in and passed for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Stanford’s defense. Cook’s fourth quarter pass to Tony Lippett from 25 yards proved to be the game winner. At the time it broke a 17-17 tie, so the game was placed in the hands of the Spartans defense, a comfortable feeling for Michigan State for sure.

Stanford looked to catch Michigan State off guard when a field goal attempt seemed to fall apart and the Cardinal completed a roll out pass for a first down, but the officials threw a flag for an illegal formation with an ineligible receiver down field amid the confusion on the play. Rather than seizing momentum and having a chance to tie things up, Stanford settled for a 39-yard field goal by Jordan Williamson to cut Michigan State’s lead to 24-20.

The Cardinal then forced the Spartans to go three-and-out with just over three minutes to play. With one last chance, the Cardinal were stopped on a fourth down with one yard to go to keep the game alive. With no timeouts, there was nothing Stanford could do but watch as Michigan State allowed the seconds to tick all the way down to triple zeros.

The win for Michigan State is just the second by a Big Ten team since 2000. Ohio State defeated Oregon in the 2010 game. The Big Ten may have suffered a 1-2 mark earlier in the day against SEC opponents, but the conference has a chance to end the bowl season on a high note if Ohio State can take down Clemson in the Orange Bowl. A pair of BCS bowl victories would help to overshadow a losing bowl season regardless of what happens. Michigan State has now also proven to be worthy of playing on the big stage, but will they be able to keep this momentum going in 2014 as the College Football Playoff era is christened?

Michigan State will enter the 2014 season as the outright defending Big Ten champions for the first time since 1988. They will do so in a new division as well. With the additions of Maryland and Rutgers next year the Big Ten is re-organizing the division line-up. Michigan State will be in the Big Ten’s East division, along with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Indiana, Maryland and Rutgers. The Spartans will geta  rematch with the Buckeyes on November 8, 2014 and also travel to Oregon in mid-September. Michigan State will also renew their end-of-the-year series with Penn State. Like Stanford, Michigan State will have three offensive linemen moving on but the significant players on the offense will be in tact at the skill positions. The defense will have six senior starters to replace but the Spartans should continue being tough on defense. The good news is Mark Dantonio and his staff will be getting a nice pay upgrade, so the Spartans will have some continuity working for them.

Stanford will have some changes to work through when the Cardinal move in to 2014. The offensive line will have at least three starters to replace in addition to running back Tyler Gaffney and fullback Ryan Hewitt. The defense will also be looking for new leadership after losing a good handful of players to graduation, including linebacker Shayne Skov. The backbone of Stanford’s success the last few years has been a punishing ground game and a stiff defense (yeah, Andrew Luck was a nice asset as well), so look for David Shaw to continue with that typical formula as the Pac 12 North continues to catch up. The Pac 12 North may still be Stanford’s or Oregon’s to lose in 2014, but Washington adding Chris Petersen as a head coach should lead to the Huskies improving as well. The Cardinal will get USC at home next season but will take to the road to play Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA and Washington in addition to a non-conference match-up in South Bend, Indiana against Notre Dame.

Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Oklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra lead off 2019 watch list for the Mackey Award

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Being a tight end in today’s version of college football means you’re a player wearing many hats.

While blocking is emphasized less than ever before, players at the position still need to do it in addition to splitting out wide, running reverses and lining up all over the field in a variety of offensive sets. This year’s annual watch list for the 2019 Mackey Award includes a host of players who can do it all and leave an impact between the lines that can make them a headache for opposing defensive coordinators.

While the entire list includes just about every starter at the position in the country, some of the headliners for the upcoming season include Washington’s Hunter BryantOklahoma’s Grant Calcaterra, Alabama’s Miller Forristall, Memphis’ Joey Magnifico, Missouri’s Albert Okwuegbunam, Stanford’s Colby Parkinson and Vandy’s Jared Pinkney.

The full list of players on the Mackey Award watch list can be found here.

Last year’s winner was Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson, who later became a top 10 draft pick for the Detroit Lions the following spring.

Jim Harbaugh says Michigan is close to scheduling a football game overseas

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Jim Harbaugh hasn’t yet conquered the Big Ten but he sure is trying his best to plant the Michigan flag all around the globe.

Speaking to reporters at the conference’s media days on Friday, the Wolverines head coach was asked about his program playing an actual football game abroad and he indicated that plans are in the works for just that.

“Yeah, you know, we like travel. Mexico City would be great,” Harbaugh remarked. “I know you can talk about this, we’re scheduling — I think we’re really close to announcing, actually, playing another team on foreign soil. I won’t say what it is because — have you heard anything about this? Then I’d better not say it because we’re probably not ready to release that yet. But I think there’s something really imminent. There will be an announcement soon on that.”

Michigan AD Warde Manuel played coy in a subsequent message to the Detroit News and said nothing was finalized but the school may do just that at some point.

Harbaugh has already taken his team to Italy, France and South Africa for visits during the spring but this would be the first time he’s indicated something for the fall. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany indicated he would be in favor of playing a game somewhere like Mexico City on Thursday but did not seem to suggest that anything was in the works for a game to be played south of the border in the near term.

It’s not known if the Wolverines are thinking about taking a conference or non-conference game abroad but something says they can find a willing partner from the Pac-12 if so.

Famed NCAA waiver attorney is changing sides and reportedly joining NCAA enforcement

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If you can’t beat ’em, hire ’em?

Seems like that is the case this week as Yahoo! Sports says that famed attorney Thomas Mars is switching sides from battling the NCAA for player eligibility waivers and will instead join the NCAA’s new “Complex Case Unit.”

Mars recently announced that he was getting out of the business of representing players in their battles with Indianapolis to become immediately eligible. While he cited overwhelming demand as one reason for getting out of that line of work, it seems wanting to pursue other opportunities was the more notable aspect of him leaving — in this case going to work for the very people he once sat across from (albeit in a different department now).

In addition to handling high-profile cases like Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Mars also popped onto the college football radar for his work handling Houston Nutt’s lawsuit against Ole Miss.

The Complex Case Unit, which is not an upcoming version of Law & Order: NCAA, is something born out of the commission looking into the federal college basketball scandal. Per Yahoo!, it “is expected to be comprised of a combination of external investigators and members of the NCAA enforcement staff that is tasked to handle the more complicated and large-scale investigations of potential NCAA rules violations.”

It seems Mars is one of those external investigators who will be part of the group in an interesting move from the NCAA.

Tua Tagovailoa, nine other Tide players headline preseason All-SEC first-team

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Alabama and Georgia are the overwhelming favorites in the SEC this year and it’s pretty clear why when looking through the media selections on the preseason All-SEC teams in 2019.

The Tide placed 10 (yes 10 of their 11 starters) players across the three All-SEC offense teams — including six on the first-team — and nine more players on the defensive side. To put that in perspective, the Bulldogs, the massive favorite to emerge out of the East — had 10 players total (not counting specialists) on the six ‘teams’ spread across both sides of the ball.

LSU had eight players make the cut and Auburn placed six plus both of their specialists. Maybe the most interesting selection was that of Joe Burrow as third-team quarterback over somebody like Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond.

First-Team Offense

QB       Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama          

RB        D’Andre Swift, Georgia            

RB        Najee Harris, Alabama

WR       Jerry Jeudy, Alabama   

WR       Henry Ruggs III, Alabama 

TE         Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri  

OL        Andrew Thomas, Georgia     

OL        Alex Leatherwood, Alabama     

OL        Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn                             

OL        Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama               

C          Lloyd Cushenberry, LSU

Second-Team Offense

QB        Jake Fromm, Georgia  

RB        Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt      

RB        Lamical Perine, Florida           

WR       Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt                         

WR       Jaylen Waddle, Alabama              

TE         Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt    

OL        Solomon Kindley, Georgia        

OL        Damien Lewis, LSU                           

OL        Tre’Vour Wallace-Simms, Missouri                          

OL         Isaiah Wilson, Georgia

C           Darryl Williams, Mississippi State

Third-Team Offense

QB        Joe Burrow, LSU 

RB        Larry Rountree, Missouri     

RB        JaTarvious Whitlow, Auburn     

WR       Justin Jefferson, LSU

WR       Bryan Edwards, South Carolina              

TE         Miller Forristall, Alabama

TE        Charlie Woerner, Georgia                              

OL        Deonte Brown, Alabama               

OL        Ben Cleveland, Georgia  

OL        Logan Stenberg, Kentucky      

OL        Matt Womack, Alabama             

C          Drake Jackson, Kentucky

First-Team Defense

DL        Raekwon Davis, Alabama      

DL        Derrick Brown, Auburn                            

DL        Rashard Lawrence, LSU                          

DL        Jabari Zuniga, Florida                             

LB         Dylan Moses, Alabama                       

LB        Anfernee Jennings, Alabama       

LB        Erroll Thompson, Mississippi State                             

DB       Grant Delpit, LSU                              

DB        J.R. Reed, Georgia                    

DB        Trevon Diggs, Alabama                    

DB        C.J. Henderson, Florida

Second-Team Defense

DL        Nick Coe, Auburn                                                  

DL        Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M                   

DL        Marlon Davidson, Auburn               

DL        Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina           

LB        Cale Garrett, Missouri              

LB         De’Jon Harris, Arkansas           

LB        David Reese II, Florida                   

DB        Patrick Surtain II, Alabama      

DB        Xavier McKinney, Alabama                             

DB        Kristian Fulton, LSU                               

DB        Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State

Third-Team Defense

DL         LaBryan Ray, Alabama  

DL        McTelvin Agim, Arkansas                

DL        Chauncey Rivers, Mississippi State                              

DL        Tyler Clark, Georgia   

LB        Terrell Lewis, Alabama                               

LB         Jacob Phillips, LSU        

LB         Kash Daniel, Kentucky                              

DB       DeMarkus Acy, Missouri             

DB        Shyheim Carter, Alabama                      

DB        Richard LeCounte, Georgia                        

DB       Daniel Thomas, Auburn                            

First-Team Specialists

P           Braden Mann, Texas A&M  

PK        Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia                                             

RS        Jaylen Waddle, Alabama                                              

AP        Jaylen Waddle, Alabama     

Second-Team Specialists

P           Tommy Townsend, Florida                                        

PK        Anders Carlson, Auburn                                                 

RS        Marquez Callaway, Tennessee                        

AP        Kadarius Toney, Florida                      

Third-Team Specialists

P           Arryn Siposs, Auburn        

PK        Evan McPherson, Florida      

RS        Jashaun Corbin, Texas A&M       

AP        Lynn Bowden, Kentucky