Florida State wins final BCS Championship Game as Winston responds to adversity

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Hollywood could not have scripted a better ending to the BCS era in college football. Following great endings in each of the previous BCS bowl games, the BCS Championship Game did not disappoint. Down four points with just over a minute to play, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston was charged with having to lead the Seminoles 80 yards for the game-winning score, and he delivered. A short pass over the middle to Kelvin Benjamin was held on to for a go-ahead touchdown with just 13 seconds to play. Auburn, the team of destiny heading in to the title game, had seen their magic run out, and Florida State brought a death-blow to the SEC’s BCS championship winning streak in the final BCS Championship Game to be played.

Florida State 34, Auburn 31.

So long BCS. Thanks for the memories.

Florida State was down 21-3 in the second quarter, but the game never got away from them. Any question about how this team would handle adversity was answered in most dramatic fashion under the brightest spotlight of the season. Florida State scored a late touchdown in the second quarter when Winston completed the first of his two touchdowns to Devonta Freeman to make it a 21-10 deficit at the half. The Seminoles tacked on three points in the third quarter and set up a one-score game heading in to the final quarter of the college football season.

Florida State continued to carry the momentum in the fourth quarter by pulling to within one point of the Tigers. A Jameis Winston touchdown pass to Chad Abram on the right side of the field made it a two-point game, 21-19, but an unsportsmanlike penalty on Devonta Freeman for taunting the Auburn sideline following the score held Florida State to nothing more than an extra point attempt rather than potentially going for a game-tying two-point conversion. The video replay showed it may have been a tad of an overreaction by the Big Ten referee, but it was still a situation that could have easily been avoided by Freeman.

The penalty was enforced on the ensuing kickoff, giving Auburn a free 15-yard head start on what turned out to be a pivotal possession. Auburn traveled 69 yards and ran just over six minutes of clock but had to settle for a field goal. This gave Auburn a 24-20 lead, but it was short-lived. A 100-yard kickoff return by Levonte Whitfield electrified the Florida State section of the Rose Bowl with the first lead of the night by the Seminoles since a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Florida State finally clawed all the way back, but the defense failed to come up with a stop.

Auburn, who had come up with late momentum-shifting plays down the stretch of the season with a bit of flair, did so once again by going to their strength, the running game. the Tigers capped a 75-yard drive on eight plays, leaving 1:19 left on the game clock. The final play of the drive came when Heisman finalist running back Tre Mason ran over a Florida State defender and ran 37-yards for a touchdown. The way things had gone this season for Auburn you may have thought that would have been the cherry on top of a miraculous turnaround season for Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers, but this time it was Florida State who had one last memorable drive in them.

A total of 80 yards separated Florida State from a national title. The team that had been the most dominant team from the start of the season through the conference championships, needed to dig deeper than they had early in the year against Boston College and much deeper than needed against Clemson or Miami. Adversity? Like everything else this season, Winston and Florida State brushed it off their shoulders like it was no big deal. Except that it really was.

Winston completed the first three plays of the drive to move the offense down to the Auburn 17-yard line. The big play was a 49-yard completion to Rashad Greene, but a defensive pass interference on Auburn’s Chris Davis in the end zone on a 3rd and eight gave Florida State a free first down at the two-yard line. On the very next play Winston found his favorite target, Benjamin, for the game and championship clinching touchdown.

Whew.

The college football season is now in the books. Florida State won their third national championship in school history, and brought the BCS era full circle.

Ex-UCLA OC helped convince Wilton Speight to transfer to Westwood

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When Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight announced he was going to graduate and transfer to UCLA, many were caught by surprise given that the 6-foot-6 pro-style passer is not your typical fit for Chip Kelly’s fast-paced offense. While the new Bruins’ head coach brought up how Sam Bradford and Nick Foles ran his system to convince the quarterback to pick the school for the 2018 season, it was a former assistant at the program who appears to have been just as convincing in bringing the big QB to Westwood.

That would be Jedd Fisch, who was Speight’s coach in Ann Arbor for two years before he left to take the offensive coordinator job with the Bruins when Jim Mora was still in charge last season. The veteran coach returned to the NFL as an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams shortly after Kelly was hired but he reconnected with his old pupil to give him an honest assessment of how he’d fit in with a school sporting a different shade of blue.

“As a coach, you can kind of sniff out the B.S.,” Speight told the LA Times, “and he was able to do that and say, ‘Look, you’re getting what you see at UCLA and I think it’s the right fit,’ and I couldn’t have agreed more.”

Speight will join a very competitive race to be the starter for the opener against Cincinnati when fall camp rolls around. Devon Modster is the incumbent having gotten experience last year when Josh Rosen was held out of several games while incoming freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson is considered the future at the position and figures to see early playing time.

It remains to be seen just how good UCLA will be in their first season with Kelly in charge but the head coach will certainly have a variety of options to choose from at the most important position on the field this year.

Proposed California amendment would cap coaches salaries at $200,000

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Some states do everything they can to help out athletics programs in their borders, that is something that California has never really been accused of doing. A state-wide travel ban has already caused some ripples with regards to scheduling for some teams and it seems lawmakers in Sacramento are back with a new constitutional amendment that could hamper schools ability to pay their coaches.

UCLA student paper The Daily Bruin passes along news that a new constitutional amendment was announced last week “that aims to restrict the University of California’s autonomy by reducing staff salaries, the length of regents’ terms and the authority of the UC president.” That first item is the biggest to take note of, which would institute a cap on non-faculty salaries to $200,000 per year — something that would affect everybody from coaches to the athletic director and everybody in between.

The University of California (UC) system most notably includes Pac-12 schools like UCLA and Cal, which means coaches like Chip Kelly and Justin Wilcox could be affected. To take Kelly as an example, he signed a five-year contract worth a total of $23.3 million when he was hired by the Bruins this offseason.

Head football coaches salaries are not typically paid completely by a school directly however, so there is some wiggle room should this amendment wind up passing. Often a separate athletics organization will foot most of the bill using funds raised from donors while other outside companies sometimes also get involved. Things might be a little more interesting when it comes to assistant’s salaries or non-football/men’s basketball head coaches and support staffers however, who could fall under the purview of the cap.

In other words, some creative accounting practices might have to be implemented by schools like UCLA or Cal or else they’ll be at a significant disadvantage compared to their private school peers like USC or Stanford as well as conference rivals like Arizona or Oregon.

It’s far from certain the amendment will pass given that it requires a two-thirds vote in the state legislature as well as passing muster on a state-wide ballot measure during a general election. We don’t typically see college coaches wade too far into political waters but, in this case, they might be forced to because its one that directly affects their wallets.

Arkansas moving back to natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in 2019

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It’s a new era at Arkansas with Chad Morris and a new athletic director in charge and not even the turf will be spared from seeing changes.

Per the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, the school will be moving to a natural grass field at Reynolds Razorback Stadium instead of replacing their current artificial turf again as it nears the end of its lifespan.

“Let me say my preference is I love natural grass,” Morris told the paper a few months ago. “That’s just me. Maybe that’s just the high school coach in me.

“Worrying about what the next surface out here looks like is irrelevant to me. I just want to get through a practice and get better today. But I prefer, I’m a natural grass type of guy. I love being on a grass field. There’s nothing better than that in college football, or football period.”

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek confirmed this weekend that the change was being made in Fayetteville after the 2018 season concludes. The current turf was put in back in the Bobby Petrino era in 2009 and will need to be replaced after a decade or so of heavy use.

This will not be the end of Razorbacks playing on turf however, as they will not only see the stuff for games at neutral sites and at other SEC opponents but also when they make their annual trek to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock — which had turf installed a dozen years ago.

West Virginia President on old Big 12 expansion craze: ‘Little bit messy’

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E. Gordon Gee is one of college athletics’ most recognizable figures, which isn’t exactly what you typically say about school leaders like him. The West Virginia President known for his trademark bow tie (and who has never shied away from an interview or a quip he didn’t like) is on the cusp of his first set of spring meetings in the conference as the new chairman of the Big 12 board of directors.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News about a range of issues around the league prior to meeting in Dallas, Gee seems to have come around on conference expansion from a few years ago and thinks it not only could have been handled better, but it probably shouldn’t be done in the first place because being the smallest Power Five league has its advantages too.

“I’m not certain it was the best way to do it,” Gee told the paper. “It was a little bit messy — and I was part of the mess.

“Intimacy gives us an opportunity to do something that a lot of other places can’t do… We’ll play to our strengths. We’re small, but we can be very aggressive in positioning ourselves uniquely.”

I’m sure the folks at places like Houston and BYU would agree the entire process was messy but will certainly disagree with Gee about the Big 12 sticking with just 10 members. It certainly sounds as though the issue has been put to bed for the foreseeable future but if the merry-go-round gets going once again, at least we know that the process everybody goes through will be a lot different.