Vanderbilt withstands Houston comeback, pulls away to win BBVA Compass Bowl

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It looked for a while like Vanderbilt was going to coast to an easy victory over Houston in the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl.

Then the third quarter happened.

The Commodores blew a 24-0 halftime lead by allowing 24 third-quarter points to Houston, then put the Cougars away with 17 fourth-quarter points to win their second-straight bowl game, 41-24.

Vanderbilt finished 9-4, tied for the most wins in school history. Houston dropped to 8-5.

The Cougars managed just 23 yards of offense in the first half but came to life early in the third quarter when Patton Robinette’s fumble allowed Houston to take over at the Vanderbilt six yard line. Kenneth Farrow punched it in on the next play to put the Cougars on the board. Houston forced a three-and-out on Vandy’s next possession and the Cougars then drove 86 yards in six plays for another score, this one a six-yard touchdown pass from John O’Korn to Markeith Ambles. Vandy moved the ball 20 yards on four plays on its next drive and was forced to punt it away. O’Korn found Ambles for 58 yards and that set up a 30-yard field goal from Kyle Bullard. Suddenly, it was 24-17 and the Cougars were on fire.

Houston held Vandy again on the next series and O’Korn completed the comeback with a 67-yard touchdown strike to Deontay Greenberry.

The game entered the fourth quarter tied at 24, with all the momentum on the side of Houston.

But the Commodores re-grouped and drove 82 yards on seven plays — all on the ground — with Brian Kimbrow scoring from 21 yards out to make it 31-24. O’Korn threw an interception on the next series and that turned into a 35-yard field goal from Carey Spear. Vandy was up 10 and finally had the game in hand when O’Korn’s second pick turned into a short touchdown plunge by Jerron Seymour to make the final score 41-24.

To Houston’s credit, it did not go down without a fight. In the end, it didn’t have enough gas in the tank to overcome its fourth quarter mistakes.

As for Vandy, it averted disaster and once again showed why it is no longer the Vandy of old. This is a program on the rise and, if they can keep head coach James Franklin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason the Commodores can’t start competing for SEC East titles.

Rutgers hires Andy Buh to coordinate defense

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Rutgers has hired Andy Buh as its defensive coordinator, the program has announced.

“We are excited to add Andy to the Rutgers football family,” head coach Chris Ash said in a statement. “He is an outstanding linebackers coach and has extensive experience in the Big Ten. Andy and I share a defensive philosophy and he is very familiar with the scheme we run, which will benefit the continued development of our defense.”

Ash and Buh worked together previously at Wisconsin, where Ash was the defensive coordinator and Buh the linebackers coach. He spent the past three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Maryland and has previous coordinator experience at Stanford, Nevada and Cal.

Buh replaces Jay Niemann, who served as the Scarlet Knights’ defensive coordinator for the first three seasons of the Ash era. Rutgers was 69th in total and yards per play defense and 89th in scoring in 2018, surrendering 31.4 points per game. Buh’s Maryland defense placed 78th, allowing 28.7 points per outing.

Rutgers is 7-29 under Ash and 3-24 in Big Ten play.

North Texas inks home and homes with Baylor, Tulane

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North Texas celebrated MLK Day by announcing a slew of future football opponents.

The Mean Green announced Monday it will play home-and-homes with Baylor and Tulane in the 2028 and ’29 campaigns. North Texas will visit the Bears and Green Wave in 2028, then host both in 2029. UNT will visit Baylor on Sept. 2 and Tulane on Sept. 23 in 2028, while the Mean Green will host Baylor and Tulane in back-to-back weeks to open 2029, with the Bears coming on Sept. 1 and the Green Wave on Sept. 8.

A previously scheduled home game with Army was bumped from 2027 to 2028 in conjunction with Monday’s announcements. North Texas also announced a home game with Texas Southern for Sept. 24, 2022.

Baylor will be the fourth Power 5 program and the second Big 12 opponent to visit Apogee Stadium, which opened in 2011. Indiana visited in Apogee’s opening season, Cal will make a visit in 2022 and Texas Tech will come to Denton in 2027.

“I am thrilled to announce two quality home-and-home series have been added to our schedules,” Mean Green AD Wren Baker said in a statement. “Baylor joins Cal and Texas Tech as Power 5 conference teams coming to Denton over the next few years. Tulane is a quality American Athletic Conference team that will be a fun trip for our fans when we return to New Orleans. I appreciate (COO) Jared Mosley‘s diligent efforts to find compelling games for our fans.”

North Texas and Baylor have met 13 times previously. The Bears have won 12 of those meetings but North Texas took the most recent meeting in Denton, a 52-14 thumping in 2003. That remains UNT’s most recent win over a Big 12 opponent.

The Mean Green and Green Wave have played just once previously, a 21-14 Tulane victory in New Orleans in 2013.

Baylor has a previously scheduled trip to Oregon slated for 2028, a return trip for the Ducks’ flight to Waco in 2027. Tulane also has a home-and-home with Iowa State in 2028-29, with the home dates flipped from the UNT series.

Boise State to replace iconic blue turf (with more, newer blue turf)

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Boise State became a household name through playing on its trendsetting blue turf (and winning a lot), such that the school now owns a trademark for any non-green collegiate field.

The current blue playing surface is set to go away this spring, only to be replaced by a newer, bigger, bluer (probably) version.

“It’s needed,” Boise State AD Curt Apsey told the Idaho Statesman. “We’re not just doing it to do it. It’s near the end of the usual lifespan.”

The current playing surface was installed ahead of the 2010 season; FieldTurf surfaces usually have a lifespan of eight to 10 years.

“The field is shredding,” Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin told the paper last summer. “It’s just old. It needs to be replaced. It’s just time.”

Boise State has played on a blue surface since 1986, when then-AD Gene Blaymaier put in blue AstroTurf at a cost of $750,000. The school did not even join FBS until a decade later.

The new surface will extend beyond the playing field to cover the area that previously held the Broncos’ track. It is expected to cost between $600,000 and $1 million, but the school is approved to spend $600,000 as of now.

Super Bowl starters offer (further) proof that stars matter

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Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick and is the most accomplished player in football history. Tony Romo was not drafted at all and became a franchise quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. JaMarcus RussellRyan Leaf and Akili Smith were taken first, second and third overall but busted.

Therefore, if given the hypothetical choice between a top-3 pick or an undrafted free agent, your favorite NFL team’s GM should just throw his hands up and say, “Eh, give me either. They’re both the same.” Right?

Of course not. That would be insane.

In the NFL, we can all understand that not all first-round picks pan out and some undrafted free agents become Pro Bowl caliber players, but somehow a sect of college football fans — though, admittedly, not as many as there were a decade or so ago — will tell you with a straight face that, “Stars don’t matter.”

Part of this is due to the simple nature of college football. In the NFL, a team’s talent is not necessarily a reflection on its head coach, but in college ball, the head coach has to also serve as his own GM and since the vast majority of coaches don’t sign 5-star talent, it becomes easy to convince yourself — and your fan base — that you’re better off with a team full of gritty 2-stars than a lazy 5-star, then point to Wes Welker as the type of guys you’re really after. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard, right?

Except any coach would take a 5-star over a 2-star on the whole, and that’s because 5-stars are really, really talented and really, really hard to come by. It’s easy to point to the 5-star busts because there’s a limited number each year (think of them like first-round draft picks) and the 2-star trend-buckers because not many of them become All-America level players. When seven out of 30 5-stars bust, it’s easy to focus on the seven and not the 23; when 20 out of 1,500 2-stars shine, it’s easy to focus on the 20 and not the 1,480.

But you’re a smart college football fan and already know this, right?

Let’s put some numbers behind these words. SB Nation crunched the numbers for the New England Patriots’ and Los Angeles Rams’ starting lineups and found that, yeah, it’s a lot easier to become an elite pro football player if you’re an elite high school football player. Eight of the Pats’ 22 starters were 4- or 5-star recruits, while half of the Rams’ starters were ranked similarly. That means 19 of the 44 starters next Sunday in Atlanta were blue-chip recruits.

Put in graphical terms, it looks like this.

If your team’s head coach was given a hypothetical choice between a gritty 2-star and an entitled 5-star, remind him it’s a lot easier to light a fire under a 5-star than to teach a 2-star to play like a 5-star.