Former NFL GM: Mississippi State is legitimate contender in SEC West

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Phil Savage evaluates football talent for a living. Savage, who was once the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, now serves as as the president of the Senior Bowl. Savage has seen plenty of talented quarterbacks during his 21 years as a talent evaluator, and it’s his belief Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott has what it takes to finally get the Bulldogs over the hump in the SEC.

“He makes them a legitimate contender in the SEC West,” Savage told CBSSports.com’s Jeremy Fowler. “Big arm, sturdy lower body, accuracy downfield might be questioned.”

At 6-2 and 235 pounds, Prescott is the ideal quarterback in head coach Dan Mullen‘s offensive system. The same system which once made Florida’s Tim Tebow into a Heisman Trophy winner and two-time national champion. Prescott could provide a similar presence for the Bulldogs.

Mullen described certain traits in Prescott that run parallel to all the things once said about Tebow.

“Ability to win,” Mullen described. “The it factor type of deal. He has it. Brings up the level of play with everybody around him. He’s going to make something happen, whether in run game or his arm with the passing game or improvising and extending plays.”

In 11 games last season, Prescott threw for 1,940 yards and ran for 829 more. Prescott’s numbers are similar to those posted by Auburn’s Nick Marshall when he led his team to an SEC championship. The difference is Marshall has a better surrounding cast. While Auburn will be a contender again this season based on the talent that returns to the team, Mississippi State needs Prescott to take his game to the next level.

“He will be the key to them either getting over the hump or not,” an unnamed SEC West head coach told Fowler.

If Prescott plays a little more like Tebow and a little less like Marshall, the Bulldogs could finally challenge Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the SEC West.

Report: Mike Sanford’s fate at WKU directly tied to last two games

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There are already four openings (maybe five) at the FBS level. Depending on how things play out over the rest of this month, one Conference USA program could throw its name into the 2018-19 coaching carousel mix.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, “Mike Sanford’s future as Western Kentucky’s coach hinges largely on the outcomes of his team’s final two games.” The Daily News reports that, if WKU wins its last two games — vs. UTEP, at Louisiana Tech — Sanford will be retained.

However, if the Hilltoppers drop both of those contests, Sanford is expected to be fired.

“Sanford’s future if the Hilltoppers split those two contests is unclear,” the newspaper added.

Sanford, the former offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, took over a WKU program in 2017 that had won 23 games the previous two seasons under Jeff Brohm before he left for Purdue. In his first season in Bowling Green, Sanford’s 6-7 record was the program’s worst since 2009; the Hilltoppers are currently 1-9, which even if they win out would be WKU’s worst since that winless 2009 season.

Mike MacIntyre reportedly out at Colorado at season’s end

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It appears yet another head coach will hit the unemployment line in the not-too-distant future.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, the ABC affiliate in Boulder is reporting that “Colorado will part ways with football coach Mike MacIntyre effective at the end of this season.” School officials have thus far declined to comment on MacIntyre’s future with the football program.

Based on a new deal agreed to in January of last year and approved five months later, CU would owe MacIntyre a buyout in excess of $10 million if he’s fired without cause.

In five-plus seasons with the Buffaloes, MacIntyre has posted a 30-43 record overall and 14-38 in Pac-12 play.  Coming off a 5-7 season in 2017, the Buffs won their first five games of the season and climbed to 19th in the Associated Press Top 25.  However, they’ve dropped five straight since then, with three of the five losses coming by 10 or more points.

Colorado will play its home finale this weekend against Pac-12 South leader Utah before closing out the regular season at Cal a week later.  The Buffaloes need to win at least one of those games to reach bowl eligibility.

Right now, there are officially four openings at the FBS level: Bowling Green (HERE), Kansas (HERE), Louisville (HERE) and Maryland (HERE).  Last year, 20 FBS jobs came open for one reason or another during the 2017-18 spinning of the coaching carousel.

Nick Saban bristles at suggestion to sit Tua Tagovailoa vs. FCS team this weekend

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A few days before a final, final decision needs to be made, it doesn’t appear that Nick Saban is inclined to err on the side of extreme caution when it comes to the triggerman of his high-octane offense.

Late in the third quarter of top-ranked Alabama’s shutout win over Mississippi State, Tua Tagovailoa took a shot to his right knee, the same knee that gave him issues earlier this season, and didn’t return. As a Week 12 date with FCS Citadel looms, conventional wisdom had Saban sitting the Heisman Trophy front-runner and saving him for the annual Iron Bowl grudge match in the regular-season finale.

Essentially, the head coach scoffed in the general direction of that wisdom, stating he has no plans to sit Tagovailoa and that the true sophomore, as well as his teammates, need to do a better job of limiting the quarterback’s exposure to hits.

From al.com:

No,” Nick Saban responded when asked if sitting Tagovailoa is a consideration. “Why would we do that? To say that this is not an important game or he doesn’t need to play? I think we need to do a better job of the people playing around him doing what they’re supposed to do so he doesn’t get hit. And he needs to do a better job of stepping up in the pocket and getting rid of the ball, which he had several opportunities to do. Some of these hits can be avoided just by better execution, and I think that’s what we’re going to focus on, not trying to take a guy out of a game so he can’t improve or do what he needs to do to get better or do what we need to do to get better as a team and develop some confidence in each other.

While Tagovailoa is expected to start — provided, of course, he doesn’t suffer a setback in practice during the days leading up to what’s essentially a scrimmage that counts in the standings — it’s highly likely that his day will consist of, at most, a couple of quarters worth of work.

The Crimson Tide should make short work of Bulldogs as they have beaten FBS teams this season by an average score of 49-13. Against ranked teams, that average is 33-8.

Safety who started first four games transferring from Oklahoma State

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A one-time starting member of Oklahoma State’s secondary has opted to take his leave of Mike Gundy‘s football program.

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Thabo Mwaniki announced that, after “thoughtful consideration,” he has decided to transfer from the Cowboys. The defensive back gave no specific reason for his decision to transfer.

The fact that the Denton, Texas, native lost his starting job a third of the way through the 2018 season, however, would likely be a good place to start in looking for his reasoning.

Mwaniki, a three-star member of OSU’s 2017 recruiting class, started the first four games of this year. However, the safety was replaced after Week 4 and never returned to the starting lineup. All told, he played in seven games this season, none of which came the last three weeks.

Last season, Mwaniki started two games for the Cowboys; he was the only true freshman on either side of the ball to start a game for OSU in 2018.